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​​​​Getting ready for preschool and school​​


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Starting preschool or school can be an exciting time for children and parents, but it can also be an uncertain or stressful time for some children and their families.

All children are different and each child’s transition to preschool or school will be unique. There are many simple activities and community supports available to assist with preparing each child for a great start.

These checklists aim to guide parents and carers to support their children to grow, and learn the skills they need, to thrive at preschool and kindergarten

The checklists include:

  • Ideas and activities to support healthy body and brain development
  • Recommended health checks
  • Practical ideas and links for family support
  • Where to go for help​

To help your child have the best start at preschool or school, make an appointment with your local External Link child and family health service or External Link general practitioner (GP) for their External Link blue book health and development check including:

  • Brain development
  • Growth and healthy weight
  • Physical health
  • Emotional and general wellbeing
To view the blue book in different languages External Link click here
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If you are worried about any area of your child’s development, or if your child needs a little extra help to develop some of their skills and abilities, the child and family health team can give advice about the simple things parents and carers can do to help children develop the skills they need to be ready for school. They can also help with information about child therapy services such as children’s speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and other services such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health or community supports.
Child and family health nurses​, or your GP, can also help with referral to services for families going through difficult times.​​

On this page:

Preparing for preschool or school- for three-to-five year-olds​​

From three-to-four years of age it’s recommended that children attend aExternal Linkpreschool program (offered atExternal Linkpreschools orExternal Linklong day care centres) for at least 16 hours per week. Children who participate in quality preschool programs are more likely to start school with the physical, social, language, thinking and emotional skills they need to help them learn through their schooling.
In NSW children can start primary school (kindergarten) if they turn five by 31 July in the same year that they start school. By law all children must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday. Schools usually open their kindergarten enrolments around April of the year before the child starts primary school. 
For more guidance, please see the checklist section below orPDF icondownload a pdf version here​.​

 When your child starts preschool/school...

 Tell the preschool/school teacher...

​Getting ready for school - four-to-six year-olds​

If you are wondering if your child is ready for school, here’s a checklist that includes the physical, social, language, thinking and emotional skills children should generally be observed doing before they start school. The checklist also includes recommended health checks and healthy habits that help children develop healthy minds, bodies and brains.
For more guidance, please see the checklist section below orPDF icondownload a pdf version here​​.​​

 My child has had…

  • ​TheirExternal Linkblue book ​health and development check  with a child and family health nurse or GP
  • Their four-year-old vision screen (offered free of charge by the Statewide Eyesight Preschool Screening Program [StEPS] at preschool/childcare, a clinic or with an eye health professional)
  • A External Linkdental ch​eck in the last 12 months (for a free dental check-up for your child - aged 2-to-18 years - call the NSLHD health contact centre on 1300 732 503)
  • Their annualPDF icon715 health check (forExternal LinkAboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children only). Ask your GP.
  • AExternal Linkhearing check - if you have noticed any of the following risk factors for hearing loss: 
          ​- Repeated ear infections,External Linkcoughs and colds​ (including coughing; sore throat; runny nose; fever.)
          - Difficulty listening or hearing e.g. saying ‘what!’ all the time; not paying attention, not following directions.
          - Discharge or runny ears
          - Constant pulling of ears​

 Each day my child…

  • ​Does at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorousExternal Linkphysical activity per day such as playing outside, walking, riding a bike/scooter, dancing, ball games and playing sport.
  • Regularly drinks plain water (if offering other drinks, offer low-fat milk rather than cordial, juice, soft drink.)
  • External LinkEats a variety of foods from the five food groups (vegetables and fruit; breads and cereals; meat and alternatives; dairy and alternatives) and only limited junk food
  • Has a parent/carer's help withExternal Linkbrushing teeth (morning and night)
  • Has stories shared with them and we talk/yarn, sing, play and read at least one book

 My child…

 Learning and problem solving – my child can…

  • ​Identify and name the primaryExternal Linkcolours and some of the secondary colours – red, blue, yellow, green and orange
  • External Link Count to 10
  • Listen to short stories and recall simple details of the story
  • UseExternal Linktime concepts to tell a story or describe what’s happened
  • Take turns with others when talking, yarning and playingExternal Linkgames
  • External Link Learn new tasks and activities when shown

 Speech, language and communication – my child…

  • ​Can recognise theirExternal Linkown name and the names of members of their family
  • HasExternal Linkspeech which is easily understood by both friends, family and unfamiliar listeners
  • May be able to identify someExternal Linkletters of the alphabet
  • CanExternal Linkanswer questions asked of them and ask questions of others, for example, “Why is the sky blue and the grass green?”
  • Can followExternal Linkverbal ​directions given by adults and peers

 Physical ability – my child has a…

  • ​Basic level ofExternal Linkmovement skills, including being able to throw and catch a bounced ball (most of the time), climb, hop and stand on one foot
  • Range ofExternal Linkfine motor skills for their age - cut on a line with scissors, use a pencil to colour in, begin toExternal Linkwrite their name, and draw a person with two to four body parts

 Self-care – my child can…

  • ​Take themselves to the toilet
  • External LinkBlow their own nose
  • Dress themselves
  • Put their own shoes and socks on
  • Feed themselves, open a water bottle and a lunch box
  • External LinkOrganise their belongings and pack their own school bag
  • Understand the need to wear aExternal Linkhat and sunscreen when outside

 Feelings, behaviours and social skills – my child…

  • External LinkEnjoys doing new things
  • CanExternal Linkfocus on tasks for about five minutes e.g. a story; craft activity; etc.
  • Moves easily between activities on their own
  • Identifies feelings such as happy, sad and angry
  • Is becoming more creative with make believe play
  • External LinkShares and plays well with other children of the same age and can:
          - Take turns
          - Play games with otherExternal Linkchildren
          - Understand and follow simple rules

You know your child best, if you have any concerns about their brain development, growth, health or wellbeing it’s important toExternal Linkact early and talk to a trusted health professional.

Talk to a child and family health nurse at your local child and family health centre​ or your family GP.​

​Helpful links


External Link NSW health child personal health record (Blue Book) helps keep track of children’s brain development, health and growth in the early years including average growth and developmental milestones children achieve and when to act early for extra support.

External LinkNSLHD ​Small Bites for Big Steps series provides practical ideas to help support children’s health and development during the early years​

External Link NSLHD supporting the transition to school video series provides practical ideas to help parents, carers, early childhood educators and teachers to support children have a positive start to school.

External Link NSW Government  produces numerous resources to help parents and carers find the right childcare/preschool; enrol their child in a NSW public school; and support children to have a positive start to school.

External LinkThe Raising Children Network website offers many practical tips for parents and carers including helping children prepare for, and adjust, to preschool or school​.

External Link Learning Potential includes practical tips and ideas to help nurture children and young people’s learning potential.

External Link​To find a general practitioner or other health service visit Healthdirect.​​