School Readiness: 5 Speech and Language Skills your child should have before they start school

Do I send my child to primary school, or do we wait another year? This is an age-old question, and can cause parents a lot of anxiety.

There are so many things to consider when making that decision, so speech pathologists at Kids First share their top 5 speech and language skills to consider which will help your child to thrive at school.

Speech therapists in Sydney’s northern beaches share 5 speech and language skills that kids need when they start school

1. You and other adults should be able to understand 100% of what your child says.

The thing about a child’s speech development, is that it’s a gradual process – just like acquiring any skill. If you think back to your child’s first steps, all the way through to now, you can see a clear progression, which brought them to being steady on their feet. This took time, and that’s okay!

Similarly, whilst a mum and dad know better than anyone how to interpret babies cries, now it’s time for others to be able to understand the message that your child is trying to get across. This will make a big difference in the classroom.

There might well be some sounds that are yet to develop, your child might still be calling a rabbit a ‘wabbit’, but people will still know what they mean! However, if your child’s speech sounds don’t seem to match up with their peers, this is something to consider.

2. Can respond to two and 3 step instructions appropriately.

“Can please you grab your shoes from the basket, put them on and don’t forget your bag!” … Sound familiar?

Just like with the big rush out the door to get off to preschool, school is full of multi-step instructions. Teachers will often say things like:

“Grab a sheet, go to your desk and wait for me”…

“Get your hats, line up, and wait for me”… it

It can be a lot for little kids to take in. Your child’s ability to understand these types of instructions can be the difference between keeping up with the class, and being out of the loop.

3.  Pre-literacy skills:

When will my child learn to read? When should they start? What skills should they have when they are starting school?

Before there is literacy – reading, writing, spelling, there is pre-literacy. Pre-literacy involves things like recognising that a book is read left to right. It includes understanding where the title of a book is, and that spoken words correspond with letters on a page. We want children to have all the background knowledge they can before they try to learn to read and these are introductory skills that you can build at home before school begins.

4.  Sequence short stories

Being able to recount a sequence of events is a crucial skill that school starters need to have. If your child knows how to do this, they can convey their ideas well to a teacher. This is probably most important when something goes awry – if your child falls and hurts themselves, or if another child has upset them, and they can say “I was running and then I fell”, the teacher then knows just what to do, and it takes the guesswork out of the equation.

5.  Use well-formed sentences

Using well-formed sentences is a great thing to suggest, but what exactly are they?

At the age of four and five, a child should be able to join their ideas using conjunctions like “and”, “but” and “because”. They should be able to use names, and action words in an easy to understand sequence. This helps your child to be able to convey their thoughts, to engage with school work, and to hit the ground running on making life-long friends!


Does your child have the speech skills needed to start school?

If you are concerned that your child’s speech and language skills are not quite where they should be, call Kids First. Our speech pathologist have years of experience supporting young children to get ready for school and our Gap Free Screening offer is available to all children when they visit us for the first time.

If you would like more information about Speech Therapy at Kids First, please contact us on 9938 5419.


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