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School Readiness Checklist: Your Complete Guide

This school readiness checklist is based on the Kindergarten Entry Assessments which 38 states are currently using to assess your child’s school readiness skills.

I hope this guide will give you a better understanding of what school readiness is, how it is assessed, the skills required for kindergarten, and ways to help your child succeed.

What is School Readiness?

School readiness is essentially a set of skills that children need in order to have a successful transition into their kindergarten and formal schooling years.

There are 7 main domains that are looked at when assessing school readiness:

  1. Social-emotional
  2. Cognitive
  3. Language
  4. Literacy
  5. Mathematics
  6. Science
  7. Physical Development

While this may seem like an intimating list, many of these skills are actually acquired through play! This is why play is so important during those early childhood years.

Please remember that your child does not need to have all of these skills fully developed before entering kindergarten. As the school year progresses, your child will continue to learn and develop many of these skills.

school readiness checklist

The School Readiness Assessments in Kindergarten

Currently, 38 of the 50 states in the U.S. are using the Kindergarten Entry Assessments (KEAs) to assess a child’s readiness for school.

There are several different types of KEAs, but the most commonly used examination is the Teaching Strategies Gold KEA. Teachers will observe how children play and interact and score them based on how well they are performing in the 7 domains mentioned above.

While there is some controversy over these exams, they are important in determining your child’s developmental needs. Teachers will use the results to help each individual student based on their strengths and weaknesses.

KEA results are also increasingly being shared with parents and caregivers at home. Teachers can provide families with specific learning activities and experiences to really support the child’s development.

School Readiness Checklist

This checklist includes a set of skills for each one of the 7 school readiness domains.

1. Social-Emotional

  • Can regulate their own emotions and behaviors
    • Manages and controls their feelings
    • Follows and understands limits and expectations
    • Shows independence
    • Take care of own needs like eating, dressing, going to the bathroom, etc.
  • Can form and maintain relationships
    • Creates relationships with trusted adults
    • Plays and interacts with peers
    • Tries to make friends
    • Responds to other’s emotional cues
  • Participates in group situations
    • Is cooperative
    • Engages constructively and can follow direction
    • Understands the rights and needs of self and others
    • May try to solve social problems or issues within the group setting

2. Cognitive

  • Uses recall and can make connections
    • Can recognize and recall things based on past experiences
    • Makes connections based on their current knowledge
  • Has a positive and eager approach toward learning
    • Tries to problem-solve
    • Is attentive and engaged in activity
    • Is flexible with their thinking
    • Tries to use reasoning or logic during play
    • Shows creativity
  • Ability to Classify
    • Classifies objects or toys based on colors, shapes, similarities, and differences
  • Thinks symbolically
    • Engages in pretend play
    • Can use images, symbols, or objects to represent something that is not actually present

3. Language

  • Understands and responds when spoken to
    • Can comprehend what is being said to them
    • Will follow directions when given verbally
  • Able to communicate verbally
    • Can express needs, wants, and thoughts
    • Most of what they say is grammatically correct
    • Speaks clearly
    • Uses an expanding vocabulary
  • Uses their communication skills
    • Engages in conversations with peers and adults
    • Follows social rules when interacting with others

4. Literacy

  • Alphabet knowledge
    • Can identify and name the letters
    • Matches the sound with the correct letter
  • Shows phenological awareness
    • Understands words are comprised of different syllables and sounds
    • Can discriminate the different sounds in simple words (ex. c-a-t)
  • Shows print awareness
    • Understands that the prints on the page are actually words that represent a meaning
    • Knows how to handle books (holds book right side up, flips pages correct way)
    • Understands words are read from left to right
  • Comprehends and responds to what is being read
    • Interacts with the book and the person who is reading the book
    • Can retell part of the story from the book
    • Can express how they feel about the book

5. Mathematics

  • Understands and uses numbers
    • Counts verbally
    • Uses 1:1 correspondence (associates number with the correct quantity of objects)
  • Uses comparing and contrasting skills
    • Groups things together based on similarities and differences
    • Understands concepts like more, less, and equal
  • Uses measuring skills
    • Can distinguish which pencil is longer
    • Can measure time
  • Has spatial awareness
    • Understands different shapes
    • Understands how certain toys, like building blocks, fit together
  • Pattern recognition
    • Can identify simple patterns
    • Can repeat simple patterns

6. Science

  • Understands the characteristics of living things
    • Is it breathing, does it grow, etc.
  • Has working knowledge of physical properties of objects and matter
    • Starting to understand weight, volume, mass, etc.
  • Use scientific inquiry skills
    • Make observations (describing color, shape, size, etc.)
    • Hypothesizes
    • Asks questions
  • Has working knowledge of Earth’s environment
    • Understands simple concepts like trees need water to grow

7. Physical Development

  • Shows fine motor strength and control
    • Can easily stack building blocks
    • Can use glue to paste things onto paper
    • Uses scissors to cut along a straight line
  • Shows developed gross motor skills
    • Can walk, run, climb, and skip with ease
    • Can hop on one leg
    • Can throw a ball
  • Has balancing skills
    • Can balance when walking on a narrow beam
school readiness checklist

Importance of School Readiness

Helping your child become school ready is incredibly important in helping them thrive throughout their academic career.

Unfortunately, many children are entering kindergarten underprepared. When children feel they are behind it may affect their mental and social development. They may even begin avoidant or aggressive behaviors simply out of fear of being behind.

Many research studies have shown that children who are competent in their school readiness skills in kindergarten are more likely to have academic achievements and success throughout adulthood.

How to Best Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

The best way to help your child is to provide them with opportunities to learn through play. As children play, they are developing many of these school readiness skills naturally.

While it is super important to let your child engage in free play, there are simple activities you can incorporate into your daily routine to truly help prepare your child for kindergarten.

Here are links to simple activities that will help your child develop to their maximum potential!

school readiness checklist


Your child does not need to have all of these skills fully developed before entering kindergarten. If you feel your child is behind, please speak with the supportive staff at your local school.

Children are very resilient and they may just need a little extra practice to master some of these skills. Early interventions tend to be very successful and the younger the child the better the outcomes.

I hope you have found this school readiness checklist helpful!

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