Preschoolers -- Looking Ahead to School

by Ann Douglas

looking forward to schoolYour preschooler won't be old enough to hop on board the school bus for another year, but she already has her backpack packed with paper, pencils, and other hand-me-down school supplies from her big sister.

If "the backpack test" were one of the signs of school readiness, your preschooler would pass with flyer colors.

However, it didn't make the list of 11 school readiness measures identified by Eleanor Thomas in her report Readiness to Learn at School Among Five-Year-Old Children in Canada.

Here's what did:

  • Receptive vocabulary (understanding words that are spoken)
  • Communication skill (being able to explain needs, follow instructions, pass along messages)
  • Number knowledge
  • Copying and symbol use
  • Attention
  • Work effort
  • Curiosity level
  • Self-control of behavior
  • Co-operative play
  • Independence in dressing
  • Independence in cleanliness

Some other key findings from Thomas' study:

• Children who experience positive interactions with a nurturing, involved parent enjoy better academic and social success than those who do not.

• Children who participate in sports and other physical activities are more likely to be ready for school than less active children.

• Household income impacts on six of the eleven measures of readiness to learn.

• Children from lower-income households scored lower in terms of receptive vocabulary, communication skill, knowledge of numbers, copying and using symbols, attention, and co-operative play.

• Household income did not have an impact on work effort, level of curiosity, self-control of behavior, independence in dressing, or independence in cleanliness at age 5.

The benefit to getting your hands on this information while your child is still a toddler or a preschooler is that you can start to flag areas that may cause her difficulty once she heads off to school and come up with a game-plan for addressing them. Even though this study was in Canada, similar circumstances exist elsewhere.

If you have concerns about your child's development, discuss them your child's doctor or others in your community who can suggest strategies for helping your child to develop the skills that will give her the best possible start in school.

Just remember: it's all about promoting school readiness, not trying to create a kindergarten genius.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site,

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to