Introduction Link
Appendix A
Local Contacts and Services
What is School Readiness?

  • In recent years, areas such as school readiness and school transition have received considerable attention. Even the terminology is not consistently defined. Generally in Ontario professionals use the following to indicate what is meant by 'school readiness'
  • 'Transition to school' is the terminology used for programs that prepare children to a more formal setting. It usually includes 3 - 5 year olds and includes three different types of programs.
  • Pre-school is a play-based setting that supports learning for 2 - 5 year olds. Pre-school programs can be formal or informal and are offered through a variety of public and private organizations. Pre-schools are not mandatory and may have fees associated with them. 
  • Junior Kindergarten (JK) is usually, but not always, offered in a school-based setting to support the beginnings of curriculum-based learning. Children are usually 3 or 4 years old at entry to JK and 4 or 5 years old by completion of a JK program. JK is publicly funded; but attendance is voluntary.
  • Senior Kindergarten (SK) is offered in a school-based setting in all schools across Ontario as a publically funded 'transition to school' program for 4 and 5 year olds (at start of school-year). JK and SK are offered on a half-day or alternate full day basis.
  • Some schools offer Full Day Kindergarten. The province of Ontario is set to expand the Full Day Kindergarten Program to all schools in Ontario.
  • 'School readiness' is the terminology used to indicate that a child is ready to enter grade one. Children entering grade one are usually 5 or 6 years old in Ontario.

  • In the report: With our Best Future in Mind: Implementing Early Learning in Ontario, Charles Pascal (2009a p5) sets the goals for every child in Ontario to enter the primary grades:
  • "Healthy and secure
  • Emotionally and socially competent
  • Eager, confident and successful learners and
  • Respectful of the diversity of their peers".
A child's ability to learn depends on how well she has mastered the art of self-regulation. Posner and Rothbart (2006) show that there is a sensitive period, when self-regulation can be enhanced, between the ages of three to five. During this time, the area of the brain that supports the development of self-regulation, experiences a major growth spurt. While self-regulation continues to develop into adulthood, having acquired age appropriate self-regulation by the time a child enters formal schooling, will benefit his learning trajectory. Following directions, staying on task, and managing emotions and social situations are the skills that will allow the child to focus on his academic activities. Self-regulation develops well in an environment that provides;

Opportunities for playful learning by stimulating the child's imagination and curiosity.
Caregivers that respond to the child's cues warmly, sensitively and consistently.

Children, experiencing circumstances that do not encourage healthy development and developmentally appropriate play, will greatly benefit from early interventions, before brain processes have become entrenched (Tierney & Nelson, 2009). The fundamental neural pathways for the development of self-regulation are more difficult to aquire after the age of six. The foundation, therefore, must be laid in the early years (Shonkoff & Philips, 2009).

Health and Physical Development     • Self-care Skills
Social and Emotional Development     • Language and Early Literacy     • Reading/Writing Continuum
Cognition and General Knowledge     • Approaches to Learning

Factors Affecting School Readiness

  • School readiness consists of three areas:
    • The child’s readiness for school
    • The school’s readiness for children
    • The family and community’s ability to support healthy child development (High, 2008).
Professionals can play a role in enhancing the readiness within all three areas.

  • Two primary factors have been noted to promote the individual child’s school readiness
  • Unfortunately, not all children arrive at school with the same types of positive early experiences. There are a number of issues which contribute to a child’s lack of school readiness and may need to be addressed. They include:
    • Issues related to preschool programs – insufficient number, cost, wait lists
    • Income-related factors including poverty, overcrowding in the home, lack of parental education, or inability to provide school transition resources
    • Parenting factors including coping strategies, mental health issues, or lack of understanding of the importance of school transition programs
    • Child factors including lack of social skills, physical activity or the impact of media overuse (e.g., television, internet)
    • Insufficient access to safe spaces where children can play or insufficient play structures or equipment
    • Lack of awareness or resources to support children’s play
    • Lack of consensus of the school readiness definition across disciplines (e.g., health, education, social services)
    • Lack of support services, such as literacy programs for newcomers
      (Active Healthy Kids Canada, 2009; National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, 2008).
All areas of a child’s development need to be nurtured though learning-based play, in order to enhance school readiness. Considering that school readiness indicators are all interconnected, support in one area can positively influence other domains. For some additional ideas of ways to enhance healthy child outcomes, click on the Ways to Support School Readiness through Play link in this section, and the section Supporting All Children. Health and physical development, social and emotional development, language development, cognition and approaches to learning should be considered when promoting a child’s school readiness (High, 2009).

  • When a child is engaged in play with caregivers and other adults in a warm and responsive relationship, she will develop qualities that will help her succeed in school:
    • Strong oral communications skills
    • Confidence
    • The ability to make friends
    • Persistent, creative problem-solving
    • Task completion
    • Curiosity
    • Eagerness to learn.
  • In homes and early learning programs, where security forms the foundation for exploration and learning, each child learns a number of things that increases her readiness to learn:
    • Increased awareness of and modification of emotions
    • Ability to focus and shift attention
    • Ability to control impulses, tolerate frustration, delay gratification
    • Ability to relate to others.
All children are unique with strengths that provide a foundation for facing the challenges that emerge as they grow and develop.  The skills and experiences listed here will vary because of individual differences, diverse early learning experiences and the context in which the skills emerge. The lists below can be seen as a background for school entry but not an inventory that fits all children the same way.

To assess each child’s unique development when preparing to enter JK or SK, view section 3 Preschoolers (2½-6 Years).

Health and Physical Development

As one aspect of school readiness, the area of health and physical development covers a wide range of important indicators. First and foremost, a child’s basic needs must be met, including the provision of healthy food and adequate sleep. Children are unable to maximize the learning experiences within an educational setting if they are constantly hungry or tired. A child’s fine and gross motor skill development also affect school readiness. For example, if a child is unable to hold a pencil properly, later writing skills are impacted.

Health and physical domain Where to find more information Developmental skills and healthy habits that will enhance the child’s readiness to learn
Healthy and adequate nutrition Section 3 Eat according to Eating Healthy with Canada’s Food Guide.
Have breakfast before school.
Adequate sleep Section 3 Have a regular bed time and getting up routine.
Have a nap or quiet time with books or quiet toys during the day.
Physical activity and active play Section 3 Be physically active for at least 60 minutes throughout the day.
Engage in active play both indoor and outdoors.
Watch less than 2 hours of TV or computer screens per day. For ideas and strategies see:
Hearing Section 3 Have passed hearing screening shortly after birth.
Have a hearing check if there have been any concerns, such as frequent ear infections, prematurity, antibiotic use or language difficulties.
Enjoy and use music, rhymes and repetition.
Vision Section 3 Complete a vision screen by the age of one or as soon as concerns are noted.
Visual deficits that are not corrected early can compromise a child’s learning and may not be noted easily.
Enjoy exploring a variety of art forms, colours and other visual experiences.
Dental health Section 3 Brush and floss teeth daily under the supervision of an adult.
Visit a dentist regularly.
Physical health Section 3 Have all her pre school immunizations.
Have a complete physical examination by the child’s primary health care provider prior to starting school.
Mental health Section 2
Section 5
Spend time in a nurturing environment without undue stress.
Have developed secure attachments with adult caregivers.
Have access to factors that promote resilience.
Motor skills Section 3 Have reached the age-appropriate gross and fine motor skills.
Have the opportunity to use both gross and fine motor skills in a variety of play situations.

Self-Care Skills are also important for school readiness as the child takes a large step towards future independence.

Self-care and safety skills Where to find more information Developmental skills and healthy habits that will enhance the child’s readiness to learn
Dressing Section 3 Dress and undress self without help depending on age.
Be able to do most buttons and zippers.
Put on shoes, may not be able to tie laces.
Have the opportunity to practice dressing with a variety of dress up clothes.
Feeding Section 3 Be able to open lunch and snack containers.
Feed himself, finish most meals.
Toileting Section 3 Be able to tell an adult when she needs to go to the washroom.
Go to the washroom independently.
Wash and rinse hands safely and independently.
Help-seeking Section 3 Ask for help.
Tell an adult if she is upset or sick.
Safety Section 3
Section 5
Know her first and last name.
Know her address and telephone number (more likely
for 5-year olds).
General safety Section 3
Section 5
Know how to follow instructions and routines.
Pay attention to instructions.
Safe play Section 5 Use appropriate safety precautions during play (e.g.,
wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, use rounded
scissors when cutting).
Getting to and from school safely - by bus Section 5 Know the safety rules of riding a school bus.
Complete a practice ride if possible.
Getting to and from school safely - walking Section 5 Walk with an adult or older sibling.
Know not to talk to strangers, not to get into a stranger’s car and where to go for help if someone approaches her.
Complete a practice walk.
Getting to and from school safely - by car Section 5 Walk from car to school or school to car observing safety rules and precautions.
Cross the road with an adult or older sibling.

  • Click here to view the resource, Early learning for every child today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings (Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning, 2006).

  • Click here to view The Kindergarten Program - Revised (Ministry of Education, 2006).
Social/Emotional Development

When children are socially competent and emotionally healthy, they function well within the social parameters of a classroom setting. They interact easily with others, share materials, express their feelings, work well in group settings, and develop positive relationships with peers and adults. A positive sense of well-being will contribute greatly to a child’s school readiness (National School Readiness Indicators Initiative, 2005). Social and emotional development is fostered in reciprocal and cooperative play (e.g., turn taking, sharing, dramatic play, games with rules).

Social Domain Where to find more information Developmental skills and healthy habits that will enhance the child’s readiness to learn
Playing with other children Section 3 Take turns and share.
Play along side and cooperatively with other children.
Conflict resolution and problem solving Section 3 Express feelings, wants and needs.
Use self-regulation strategies to deal with highly emotional situations.
Begin to identify consequences.
Helping skills Section 3 Follow a routine (e.g., set out placemats for snack time, put on gym shoes and line up for gym)
Use some pro-social behaviour.
Empathy Section 3 Begin to see things from another’s point of view.
Be able to describe what another person might be feeling.
Interacting with adults Section 3 Be able to pay attention.
Make eye contact while talking.
Emotional Domain Where to find more information Developmental skills and healthy habits that will enhance the child’s readiness to learn
Emotional skills can be enhanced through social play, reading and discussion of stories. Active play and physical activity also increase self-esteem, self-confidence and self-concept.
Self-concept Section 3 Have responsibilities for some personal, family and group routines (e.g., feeding a pet, setting the table).
Use some positive social comparisons and personality traits to define himself (e.g., “I am strong; I can climb better than my sister”).
Self-awareness Section 3 Begin to understand that she is separate from others and that others live and think differently.
Self-esteem Section 3 Understand that she has some areas of strength.
Complete tasks and show pride in her accomplishments.
Self-expression Section 3 Have an expanding vocabulary to express her emotions.
Begin to understand that she can feel mixed emotions at times.
Self-regulation Section 1
Section 3
Use self-talk and other strategies to regulate her emotions.
Respond to inductive justice (making a child aware of the feelings or harm she has caused by her misbehaviour) by displaying pro-social behaviour.
Positive attitude towards learning Section 4 Click here for: Approaches to Learning

  • Click here to view the resource, Early learning for every child today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings (Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning, 2006).

  • Click here to view The Kindergarten Program - Revised (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006).
Language and Early Literacy

The development of language and literacy skills begins at birth, and is influenced by a wide range of factors, including the vocabulary used at home, early reading and opportunities to play.

Oral language is the foundation for later literacy skills. A rich vocabulary and well-developed expressive language skills are essential for literacy development. Any delays in the development of a child’s language skills need to be addressed quickly by caregivers and professionals.

The age at which children learn to read varies greatly. Some children begin to read at age four, while others don’t develop reading skills until age six or later. Children pass through several stages of reading, writing and spelling development, as they move along the continuum of literacy development. For more information on these stages see:
  • The Hanen Centre at for information and programs to support oral language delays
  • Speech and language milestones, as well as talking tips are provided at
Language and early literacy consist of four areas: attention, receptive language, pre-speech and expressive language and pre-literacy skills. These are closely interrelated with hearing, social, emotional and physical development. For more information on all language and early literacy milestones click on Supporting Preschooler’s Development by Age.

Reading/Writing Continuum

In May 1998, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the International Reading Association (IRA) came out with a joint position statement on reading and writing expectations for young children. The continuum spans from preschool to the third grade. The first two phases are listed here (NAEYC, 1998, p. 15):

Phase 1: Awareness and exploration
(goals for preschool)
Phase 2: Experimental reading and writing
(goals for kindergarten)
  • By entry into Junior Kindergarten children should have achieved the following skills.
  • By entry into Grade One children should have achieved the following skills.
Children explore their environment and build the foundations for learning to read and write.

Preschoolers can:
  • enjoy listening to and discussing storybooks
  • understand that print carries a message
  • engage in reading and writing attempts
  • identify labels and signs in their environment
  • participate in rhyming games
  • identify some letters and make some letter-sound matches
  • use known letters or approximations of letters to represent written language
Children develop basic concepts of print and begin to engage in and experiment with reading and writing.

Kindergartners can:
  • enjoy being read to and themselves retell simple narrative stories or informational texts
  • use descriptive language to explain and explore
  • recognize letters and letter-sound matches
  • show familiarity with rhyming and beginning sounds
  • understand left-to-right and top-to-bottom orientation and familiar concepts of print
  • match some spoken words with written ones
  • begin to write letters of the alphabet and some high-frequency words

  • Click here to view the Language/Early Literacy Development domain in section 3

  • Click here to view the resource, Early learning for every child today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings (Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning, 2006).

  • Click here to view The Kindergarten Program - Revised (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006).

  • Click on the following link to download Foundations for Literacy: An Evidence-based Toolkit for the Effective Reading and Writing Teacher:

Cognition and General Knowledge

As children are exposed to new experiences and learning opportunities, their understanding of their world expands. A rich and stimulating environment will enhance a child’s learning and interest in further inquiry. Cognitive development encompasses many aspects, such as “language and literacy, mathematical knowledge, scientific thinking, the arts, music and other vehicles for knowledge acquisition, creative expression, reasoning and problem solving” (National School Readiness Indicators Initiative, 2005, p. 68).

Cognitive Domain Where to find more information Developmental skills and healthy habits that will
enhance the child’s readiness to learn
Cognitive skills
- general
Section 3 Have reached the age-appropriate, cognitive developmental milestones.

Emerging skills should include:
  • Questioning
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Spatial abilities
  • Observation
  • Categorization
  • Communicating findings
Numeracy skills Section 3 Have acquired the age-appropriate numeracy skills.
Attention Section 3 Be able to focus on a task or situation for more than a few minutes.
Be able to shift attention to a new situation.
Return attention to task or situation easily following a brief distraction.
Memory and recall skills Section 3 Increasingly use descriptive words to tell about past events or experiences.
Use memory of past experiences to construct or plan for new and future experiences.
Working memory Section 1 Increasingly use working memory to keep in mind information while adapting to changes in play or real life situations.
Use working memory to solve some problems and simple science experiments.

Approaches to Learning

    • Routines
    • A quiet place for reading and homework,
    • Books and literacy aids such as paper, crayons, pencils to encourage preliteracy
    • Space and props to stimulate play
    • Reciprocal play with nurturing adults.
  • The following skills should be encouraged when observed in play as they will be transferred to academic tasks later:
    • Curiosity
    • Engagement
    • Enthusiasm
    • Attention
    • Persistence
    • Problem solving
    • Task completion
    • Reliability
    • Organization and planning
    • Time management
    • Risk-taking while using safety precautions (e.g., practicing swimming without floating device while adult is at arm’s length)
    • Self-direction and initiative
    • Ability to work independently
    • Collaboration with others.
(National Education Goals Panel, 1998)

  • Click here to view the Cognitive Development domain in section 3

  • Click here to view the resource, Early learning for every child today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings (Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning, 2006).

  • Click here to view The Kindergarten Program - Revised (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006).