A School Readiness Checklist

In South Africa, children can start “big” school when they are 5 years old, provided that they turn 6 before the end of June the same year.  Most children start Grade 1 the year they turn 7.  Unfortunately we cannot only judge if my child is school ready by age, my child’s development should be on par with the development of other children of the same age. When we talk about development we have to look at the different aspects thereof: emotional, social, physical, intellectual and language development should be considered before deciding that she is ready to get into a uniform and attend school.

We expect the following skills from a child that should be able to cope in a public school classroom:

Language Development:

  • She should know some nursery rhymes
  • Can use expressive and receptive language
  • Can follow instructions
  • Able to produce the different sounds of a language, in other words have command of a language
  • Can put sentences together to make herself understood
  • Able to take turns in a conversation.

Pre-reading Skills:

  • Can name basic colours
  • Know the letters of the alphabet
  • Know the names and sounds of letters
  • Be able to recognize their written name
  • Have print awareness (She knows how to hold a book and that we read from left to right)
  • Have an interest in books and reading.

Cognitive Skills:

  • Understand the concept of size – bigger and smaller
  • Know opposites
  • Can build jigsaw puzzles
  • Can master sequencing cards
  • Can pay attention and plan the execution of an activity
  • Know different shapes
  • Can copy patterns
  • Know position in space – above, below, in front, behind, etc.
  • Can persist in challenging task
  • Able to categorize objects
  • Have a degree of intellectual curiosity.


  • Can count up to at least 10
  • Understand the concepts of counting, sorting and grouping
  • Know the different times of day – morning, afternoon and night

Social Skills:

  • Knows how to ask for something
  • Can share
  • Can take turns
  • Able to listen quietly
  • Can relate appropriately to adults and peers.

Physical Skills:

  • Can use the bathroom on her own
  • Can blow her nose
  • Can wash her hands
  • Able to catch and throw a ball
  • Can balance on 1 foot for a certain time
  • Able to walk up and down stairs
  • Able to use scissors, pencils and crayons
  • Able to stack blocks
  • Can hop
  • Can use a knife and fork to eat
  • Able to cross her midline.

Emotional Skills:

  • Can ask for help
  • Realize that she cannot always get her own way
  • Able to manage anger and frustration
  • Can work independently
  • Can cope with criticism and failure
  • Able to separate from a caregiver
  • Able to effectively express her feelings and needs
  • Hold her own in a group activity
  • Able to postpone the need for immediate gratification.

This checklist should give you an indication if your child is school ready.

A child’s first year in school is extremely important, because it is the first building block for the following 11 years. I believe that it is important that it should be a positive experience, where the child is adequately equipped to manage in the classroom, with many success experiences. When they are able to do something, it becomes enjoyable to do it.

Good luck for Grade 1!