School Readiness

What is School Readiness?

School Readiness describes the skills a child needs to start school well. You can help your child learn these skills through play and daily life.

Starting school is an exciting step in every child’s development. It can also be a big step in every parent’s development! Common questions parents have about their child’s school readiness might be…..

  • How will they go making new friends?
  • Are they emotionally ready for big playgrounds and lots of kids?
  • Will they be able to follow a teacher’s instructions?
  • My child still makes pronunciation mistakes, what happens if they can’t be understood?
  • Are their language skills age-appropriate? Will they be able to ask the questions they need to?
  • What are literacy skills should they have before they start? 
  • How young is too young?

School Readiness summaries these questions and concerns into four areas. Speech Development, Receptive Language, Expressive Language and Pre-literacy skills. As a parent or care giver, you can make a big impact in all of these areas in the way you play with your child and in your simple everyday interactions. Read on for more information on school readiness skills and tips for preparing your child during the year before Kindergarten.

Speech Development

Speech sounds refer to the different sounds in words. Sound errors are expected as children learn to talk, however, at 4 years old, kids should be understood by other adults 90-100% of the time[1].

This means if you are still repeating what your child says to help others understand. Or, if you find friends and family still find it hard to understand their stories and ideas. Your child may benefit from speech pathology support.
At 5 years old children should be correcting the last of their speech errors. Common errors we see at this age include using:
  •  ‘f’ for ‘th’ (e.g. ‘fumb’ for thumb)
  •   ‘w’ for ‘r’ (e.g. ‘wun’ for run)
Current research[1] suggests that children develop these sounds from the age of 5 years old. We expect that at a minimum children can copy the correct way to say the sounds, even if they don’t use it each day.
In addition to these sounds, interdental lisps e.g. saying “thing” for “sing” can be targeted from the age of 4. Lisps can occur for many reasons. Learning to make a clear ‘s’ means helping your child learn a new habit. This takes time and practice.
Finally, research shows children with speech errors are more likely to have difficulties learning to read and spell. This shows the importance of supporting speech sound development.

Interested in reading more about speech development and speech delays? click here to know more.

Receptive Language

Receptive language is the ability to understand prepositions, instructions, opinions, negotiations and references to time. Age-appropriate receptive language skills help your child to have a better understanding of what is happening around them. This can be a significant factor in a successful transition to school and is part of a strong foundation for school readiness.

Understanding Time

Does your child understand whether you are talking about something that has happened in the past (We went to the park last week), present (we are going to the park), or future (Let’s go to the park on Saturday). A strong understanding of these grammatical features will help your child follow what is happening in the classroom, develop their recounting skills and keep up with conversations in the playground.

Following Instructions

In the preschool class setting, children should be able to follow three-step instructions (Tuck your chairs under the table, get your hat, and line up at the door). However, in school, multi-step instructions increase as teachers give different instructions to class sub-groups. For example, ‘Red table please pack your books away and go and sit on the carpet, Blue table please put your pencils in your pencil case and line up at the door’. This means that a child needs to be able to follow, process and understand which set of instructions apply to them. You can help improve your child’s working memory by giving ‘silly’ 3 step instructions around the house (first put your shoe on the chair, then put your pillow under your doona and last sit on the floor).

Imaginative, Social Emotional Language, Opinions and Negotiation

Does your child join in with others when doing make-believe play? Make-believe play can involve trucks and cars, dress-ups, playing in the kitchen and with dolls. When a child actively participates in make-believe play they use a broad range of language such as emotions, likes, dislikes, opinions and negotiations. These skills are particularly developed in group play and are useful for social skills development[3].


It is normal to expect all children to understand and use all prepositions, or location words, by age 4. These include in, on, under, next to, through, middle, between etc[4]. Help your child learn the difference between them by playing treasure hunts around the house (Where did you find the egg, was it next to the chair or on the chair?). Easter Egg Hunts are a great opportunity for preposition practice!

Expressive Language

Expressive language refers to your child’s ability to put their thoughts into words. In other words their vocabulary, sentence structure and how they organise their ideas in conversation. Strong expressive language means your child is able to tell you their wants and needs, argue a point of view and successfully talk to their peers in the playground.


In the year before school children should be able to use all pronouns. This means regularly using pronouns such as, “I, she, his, herself” all of the time. Notably, errors in pronouns are often a red flag for underlying expressive language difficulties. If you do notice errors at home, practice using different pronouns during book reading. Explicitly stating what the boy and girl characters are doing (e.g. she is exploring).


On average a child should have approximately 2000 words at age 4 and 5000 words at age 5[5]. These should be made up of a range of naming words (nouns), action words (verbs) and describing words (adjectives) and should be understood by everyone[6]. A comprehensive vocabulary helps your child express their thoughts, socialise with others, and successfully engage in school work.

Sentence Structure

In preparation for school, children should be able to give a basic recount of their day or activities using well-formed sentences. For instance, by the age 5 children should be joining their ideas together using conjunctions, such as ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘or’. For example, ‘I’m really hungry but I don’t want fruit’ 


Children who are 4 should be using regular past tense verbs (e.g. jumped, walked, cooked) correctly in sentences. By 5 years, children should be using a range of regular past tense verbs, irregular past tense verbs (e.g. ate, swam, went), and future tense (e.g. will go, will eat).


Pre-literacy is a key component of school readiness. It refers to the skills developed before school that lay a foundation for reading. Important pre-literacy skills include letter-sound awareness and the understanding that words are made up of smaller parts (sounds). In preparation for school, it is expected that children:

  • Can clap/count syllables in words (e.g. computer- com-pu-ter).
  • Start recognising and producing words with the same beginning sound, when prompted (e.g. cat – cup).
  • Are more confident in segmenting and blending words (e.g. s+un= sun), and counting sounds in words (e.g. “dog” d-o-g = 3 sounds).
  • Have a basic understanding of story sequences that have been read aloud.

If you want to read more about phonological awareness, click here to know more.

What to watch out for

The most common reason that a child may not be reaching all these school readiness milestones is a Language Delay. Children with a language delay will typically have difficulty with some or all of the following [6]:

  • Keeping up with or telling simple stories
  • Using adjectives for describing and comparison (e.g. loud, louder)
  • Understanding and/or using opposite concepts, such as big/little, over/under
  • Following 2-3 step directions (e.g. “Put your shoes on, then brush your teeth, last wash your face.”
  • Completing tasks in order (e.g. first, then, last)

To learn more about language delays click here to know more.

We are here to support you prepare your child to start school successfully. So contact us if you have any concerns about your child’s speech sounds, language or social skills.

How can Speech Pathology help your child with School Readiness?

Your child’s journey in Speech Pathology will begin with an assessment. Using standardised assessments allows us to compare your child results with a large sample of other kids their age. So that we can use the results to create a therapy management plan. This allows us to support your child’s areas for development. In addition, assessment results also help to measure the progress of therapy. While assessments can be hard work we know children learn best when they are having fun. So we make sure to break up the work with lots of fun and play.
Following your concerns, we provide individualised assessments for each child. This means assessment may address:
  •  Pronunciation,
  • receptive language – following instructions, vocabulary etc
  • expressive language – vocabulary, grammar, storytelling and organisation
  • foundational skills for reading and writing (phonological awareness)
  • Social skills

A comprehensive assessment provides an understanding of your child’s strengths and areas for development. This, in turn, supports the development of an individualised plan to support their school readiness journey.


Speech Therapy is most effective when it is fuelled by fun, games and play. Because we know that play is the essence of how children learn and therapy is most effective when it is embedded within play. For that reason, we ensure that our clients experience little distinction between playing and coming to speech therapy. Kids don’t know how hard they are working because they are having fun.

Effective therapy is also goal focussed and evidence-based. At Talkshop we use the individualised Therapy Management Plan to remain goal focussed throughout therapy sessions, ensuring each session builds on the progress of the last and towards the progress goals identified.

Research has shown children achieve the best results when families and caregivers are included in the therapy journey. Knowing this our speech pathologists regularly train parents, grandparents, Aunts and Uncles. In addition to this, we regularly work closely with local childcare and preschools to support children to do their best in every aspect of their lives.

Do you have more questions about your child’s school readiness? Then use the form below to book a free initial consultation with one of our clinicians. So we can help guide you through any concerns you may have in preparation for your child starting school.

Our FREE Discovery Session is ideal for anyone with any questions relating to speech, stuttering, language, literacy, social skills, swallowing, and voice.

This is an opportunity for us to give some information on how to monitor your concern and give you advice on how to start self-managing any issues immediately.

Discovery Sessions can help you understand if an assessment or therapy is needed, how Speech Therapy would work, and if appropriate, help you book in.


1 Ashori, M. (2020). Speech intelligibility and auditory perception of pre-school children with Hearing Aid, cochlear implant and Typical Hearing.
Journal Of Otology, 15(2), 62-66. dot: 10.1016/j.joto.2019.11.001

2 Hearnshaw, S., Baker, E., & Munro, N. (2019). Speech Perception Skills of Children With Speech Sound Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
Journal Of Speech, Language, And Hearing Research, 62(10), 3771-3789. dot: 10.1044/2019_jslhr-s-18-0519

3 Kapa, L., & Erikson, J. (2020). The Relationship Between Word Learning and Executive Function in Preschoolers With and Without Developmental Language Disorder.
Journal Of Speech, Language, And Hearing Research, 63(7), 2293-2307. dot: 10.1044/2020_jslhr-19-00342

4 McCauley, S., & Christiansen, M. (2019). Language learning as language use: A cross-linguistic model of child language development.
Psychological Review, 126(1), 1-51. dot: 10.1037/rev0000126

5 Munro, N., and McGregor, K. (2015) Semantics in S. McLeod and J, McCormack (Eds), Introduction to speech, language and literacy. South Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Oxford University Press. (pp.181-230) 

6 Lanza, J., & Flahive, L. (2012).
Guide to communication milestones. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems

7 Kanhere, S., & Sunderajan, T. (2019). Speech and language delay in children: Prevalence and risk factors.
Journal Of Family Medicine And Primary Care, 8(5), 1642. dot: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_162_19

Bruce, L., Lynde, S., Weinhold, J., & Peter, B. (2018). A Team Approach to Response to Intervention for Speech Sound Errors in the School Setting.
Perspectives Of The ASHA Special Interest Groups, 3(16), 110-119. dot: 10.1044/persp3.sig16.110