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Preparing for Preschool
CFIS Communications

For many parents, the ideal educational journey for their children looks something like this: preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, high school, university, and a successful career. However, it can be challenging to envision these steps in action. "I know they will become Dr. President of the Universe someday, but today, we're working on getting cereal in their mouths instead of their hair."

When you begin your child's educational journey at CFIS, their development becomes our priority. From the day your child starts preschool to the time they graduate Grade 12, our dedicated staff and faculty focus on creating the best learning environment for each student.

Did you know that the most crucial skills for young children to learn in their early years aren't academic? To prepare for future academic success, young children benefit most from strong fine motor skills, independent self-care abilities, and a solid foundation in social-emotional competence.

Here are some tips and resources to help get your little one ready to start preschool.



The basic rule of thumb for communication readiness is that your child can communicate in a recognizable manner to most people around them and can understand others.
Examples of preschool readiness:
  • Uses recognizable words to communicate their needs: hunger, thirst, toileting, etc.
  • Regularly speaks in sentences of three words or more: “I want juice.”, “Daddy read book.”, etc.
  • Can follow a single-step instruction (e.g. “Wash your hands.”)
  • Can follow two-step instructions (e.g. “Wash your hands, then sit at the table.”)
  • Responds to their own name. 
  • Can ask for adult help if a task is difficult.
Development tips: Talk to your child often and in a regular speaking voice. Many studies show that speaking early and regularly to your child helps develop synapses in the part of the brain that processes language. So, speak and read to them, narrate what you are doing, and have them express their needs verbally - even if this means filling in the gaps until they understand the words, "I see you are reaching for your blue cup. Are you thirsty?" As your child progresses with their language and understanding skills, add more complex sentences or requests. The more opportunities your child has to hear and practice language cues, the better.

Motor skills

These skills are based on autonomy. Can your child function, for the most part, independently? 
Examples of preschool readiness:
  • Can walk the length of a city block without needing to be carried. 
  • Can, while holding the railing, walk independently up and down a flight of stairs. 
  • Can pick up small objects such as cereal, small blocks, beads, etc, using their pincer fingers, not their entire hand.
Development tips: Often, our interactions with our children have more benefits than parents realize. These articles have some great ideas on how to turn playtime into a covert operation of skill development. Check out the power of play for coordination, this one on developing fine motor skills, and our blog post on The Hidden Powers of Play.

Social-emotional development

Just as important, if not more so than physical or cognitive development, is teaching children to feel, acknowledge, and process emotion in healthy ways. It is widely asserted that children who feel emotionally supported tend to excel faster than their counterparts who are dealing with internal turmoil. Can your child recognize their own and others’ emotions, and can they regulate when needed?
Examples of preschool readiness:
  • Will separate calmly from a parent to go with a known adult (grandparent, nanny, caregiver, teacher, etc).
  • If upset by separation from a parent, is willing to accept comfort and/or distraction from a caring adult and calm down within 15 minutes.
  • Shows awareness when another child is upset or sad: may offer comfort, ask why they are crying, or comment, “She is sad.”
  • Understands the concepts of sharing and/or turn-taking, even if they are resistant to doing so.
Development tips: The biggest, and often the best, thing you can do to help your child in this area is to create a safe space for them. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and discuss what feelings are. For example, "I see you have a grumpy face, and your arms are crossed. Are you feeling angry? Do you know why you are feeling angry?". Use some of their favourite books or toys to demonstrate emotions, "Look, the boy in this book is crying. Do you think he is sad? Why do you think he is sad? Have you ever felt sad? What did you do?" or "Look, that child has a toy they don't want to share. How would you feel if someone wouldn't share with you?" Everyone has feelings, and for your preschooler, it's about learning to process those feelings in a manner, and in an environment, that is safe.  

Cognitive development and pre-academic skills

If we think of whole-child development like a building house, the foundation needs to be laid before the walls can be built or a roof can added. The same goes for preschooler's development and education. Pre-academic skills can provide a gauge as to where a child is in cognitive development, not better or worse, just where.  
Examples of preschool readiness:
  • Will provide their own name when asked.
  • Uses the names of other children in their household, family, classroom, etc.
  • Can identify themselves in family photos.
  • Can use writing materials (crayons, pencils, markers, etc) to explore mark-making (“scribbles,” abstract shapes, dots, etc).
  • Drawings that represent real people or objects (e.g. reports that they drew a dinosaur, even if the dinosaur is not recognizable to anyone else).
  • Will sit with an adult to read a book for at least 5 minutes.
Development tips: Because cognitive development is about thinking and learning rather than memorizing, you're probably already doing things with your toddler that light up that frontal lobe. Some examples of this may include asking your toddler questions, "What colour is the sky?" "Do you see the bird? Where is it? Can you show me?". Use your conversations to talk about visual descriptions such as matching, comparing, sorting, etc. 
Increase their attention span by engaging with your child in activities they have an interest in.
Play problem-solving games like fitting blocks into the appropriately shaped hole.
Help them understand cause and effect, as well as simple reasoning. "No, it's not snack time right now; it's almost dinner time. If you have a snack now, you won't have room in your belly to eat dinner."
Recent research has established a clear link between the ability to keep a musical beat and reading ability. While this research is quite new, it underlines the importance of music as a component of a well-rounded education and as a contributor to overall academic competency. You can read more about the study here.


Children in preschool should be able to show age-appropriate independence when completing self-care tasks.
Examples of preschool readiness: 
  • With no assistance, they can put on their own pants, shorts, t-shirt, socks, shoes (with assistance to tie or buckle if needed), coat or jacket (with assistance for zipper if needed), and snow pants.
  • Can feed themselves using their hands.
  • Feed themselves using a spoon or fork most of the time.
  • Drinks from a straw (not a sippy cup).
  • They can hold their own cup and drink from it without assistance (an open cup, not a sippy or straw cup).
  • Sits at the table during meals without using a high chair (may use a booster seat).
Development tips: Practice makes perfect. The more often your child's little hands can try out these tricky skills, the quicker they will become comfortable executing them daily. Here’s a great article and checklist for developing self-care skills.


Much like self-care, toileting is a big step for kids in developing their independence. It helps solidify the notion of knowing one's body, listening to and following internal cues, and developing privacy boundaries. While accidents can happen, especially in this age group, preschoolers should be able to manage the process of going to the bathroom on their own or with very minimal assistance the majority of the time. 
Examples of preschool readiness:
  • Can identify the urge to use the toilet (for both urine and bowel movements).
  • Can inform an adult of the urge with enough time to get to the toilet.
  • Can manage own clothing in preparation for using the toilet.
  • Can manage own clothing after toilet use.
  • Can wipe themselves after urinating and after bowel movements
  • Wears underwear and typically has no more than one accident per day.
Development tips: As any parent will tell you, potty training can be a formidable task. While there are countless blogs, articles, books, videos and advice on the topic, the best advice we can offer is to be consistent and patient. A sign that your child may be ready is when they can execute two-step instructions without challenge. You might find this article helpful.


There is a good chance that this is the easiest item to check off your Preschool preparedness list and one of the most overlooked learning tools. Play, in its many forms, is essential for child development and integral for early understanding of cooperation, negotiation, and interest development.
Example of preschool readiness:
  • Engages in play, solo and with others.
Development tips: This one requires very few "tips," just one. Give your child space to play. Create time for you to play with them and time for them to play on their own.

Eye exams

This one isn’t a developmental milestone, but it is extremely important. School challenges children to focus and engage. Good sight is imperative to the learning process, with 80% of it being visual. To learn more about getting an eye exam for your child and to book an appointment with an optometrist, click here.
To learn more about preschool at CFIS, contact our Admissions team at
  • Development
  • ECE
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Preschool