A healthy transition to school is built on social and cognitive learning in the preschool years. Early experiences of success in the classroom and on the playground set the stage for future successes academically and socially. Children who are accepted by their peers in grade one, continue to have friends. Children who master the early academic challenges they are given, feel more confident about their abilities and also ready for the next learning tasks.


Starting school is an important time in a child’s life. The intellectual, social and emotional skills children develop in their preschool years together with their physical health help them to adapt to their new environment.

Children who are successful in grade one are able to concentrate, and have the necessary social skills to work in a group and solve problems, they see themselves as learners (Ontario Royal Commission on Learning).

Children’s successful early integration into the school environment is based on their "readiness to learn" (RTL). This readiness sets the stage for their future academic success in a number of ways:

  • later academic success builds on skills acquired in these early years
  • an early acceptance by other children forms the basis of positive relationships with a child’s peers
  • children’s experiences of competence contributes to their self-esteem. (100,53)

A child’s preschool years are a time of very rapid physical, intellectual, emotional and social development, including:

  • physical development, for example the ability to control a pencil and use scissors develops around the age of four
  • developments in the structure and functioning of the brain which are reflected in periods of heightened sensitivity to particular kinds of learning
  • previous experience, for example, children begin counting using real objects and they go through several stages before they can count silently and see the relationship of a number in their head to the number of items they can see
  • basic cognitive skills, for example, four year olds can sort objects by colour and shape, but not by both at the same time until they are six (52)
  • eye-hand coordination
  • ability to focus attention.

While these stages of development are genetically programmed, children’s physical and mental development at each stage depends on the quality of their experiences. These experiences take place in the home, in child care or preschool education settings, and in community settings where children play together. The quality of these environments and the skills, sensitivity and resources of the adults involved affect a child's readiness to learn.

"Readiness" is an attribute of the school as well as the child. Schools can support children’s adaptation to their new environment by being prepared to respond flexibly to children who arrive with different and varied pre-school experiences and social and academic skills. Schools can also support their new students by providing opportunities for parent’s participation in their children's learning. By dealing constructively with such diversity, schools help children avoid negative labeling that can make future success more difficult. (35,100)

Contributing to healthy child development in the preschool years means:

  • making sure warm and responsive relationships occur between children and parents
  • ensuring all children have access to a supportive and stimulating environment in their pre-school years, including opportunities for play with other children
  • finding ways to ensure working parents have time to meet the developmental needs of their children
  • supporting parents in their parenting work through better access to information, and opportunities for education, problem-solving and skill building
  • ensuring families have the economic resources needed to purchase food, shelter and other necessities
  • providing a healthy physical environment.


Physically healthy

Age-appropriate social skills

Positive emotional health

Appropriate language and learning skills

  Top ·  Print  ·  Site Map  ·  GHC Home  ·  Next