How do I know if my child is ready for Grade 1?

The demands of the Grade 1 classroom are a sudden change from the playful and informal environment of Grade R. We all want our children to progress and move up with their peers to the next grade. A child that is ready for formal learning is one that will thrive and develop confidence as they engage with the challenges posed in Grade 1. This leads to a positive attitude towards school and learning. We want to do what is best for our child. But how do we know if they are ready?

When considering whether a child is ready for Grade 1, we consider not only their academic abilities, but also physical, social, and emotional maturity and development. A child may be academically ready to start with formal learning, but if they have difficulty interacting with their peers on the appropriate level, or regulating their emotions, for example, then this is likely to affect their functioning in the classroom.

Some of the skills learners are expected to have acquired before entering Grade 1 are:

Physical and motor development:

  • Gross motor skills – climbing, walking running, jumping, standing on one leg, throwing, catching, and bouncing a ball
  • Fine motor skills – pencil grip, use of scissors, crayons, paint brushes, cutlery, etc.
  • Perceptual skills – visual and auditory perception
  • Self-care – dressing themselves, hygiene routines, etc.

Emotional and social development:

  • Independence
  • Confidence
  • Separation from parents
  • Responsibility for their belongings
  • Problem solving
  • Interacting with peers
  • Integrating with a group
  • Holding a conversation
  • Listening to others
  • Taking turns
  • Sharing with others
  • Willing to help a friend

Educational Psychologist in Port Elizabeth - Child Art


Cognitive development:

  • Observational skills – recognise differences and similarities
  • Ask questions and solve problems
  • Listen to and follow instructions
  • Use drawings, play, and various objects to express themselves creatively

  • Actively involve themselves in role playing, drama and story telling
  • Creatively express their understanding of the world around them
  • Understanding numbers and what they mean
  • Sequencing – count objects 1-10
  • Use objects or draw pictures to represent and solve simple addition and subtraction word problems
  • Sounds – identify beginning and end sounds in words for example hat starts with a “h”, cat ends with a “t”
  • Sounds – be able to identify similar sounds in words for examples words that start with the same letter such as bed and bat.
  • Recognise and provide rhyming words
  • Body concept – able to name body parts, and know what is part of them and what is not
  • Form concept – name shapes and forms
  • Form constancy – recognise, classify, and match forms, and understand that a form stays the same regardless of size or position
  • Size concept – name and distinguish between objects of different sizes using words such as “big”, “small”, “long”, “short”, etc.
  • Size constancy – recognise, classify, and match objects of a similar size
  • Colour concept – name colours and variations such as light and dark
  • Colour constancy – recognise, classify, and match objects that are similar colours

  • Memory – know basic colours, shapes, their date of birth, parent’s telephone number and home address
  • Recognise and possibly write their name
  • Part-whole concept – name parts of objects, e.g. half a cake or a quarter of pizza
  • Part-whole constancy – recognise, classify, and match similar parts for example half a cookie is similar to half a cake


Language development:

  • Converse in their mother tongue with ease
  • Both comprehend and express themselves fluently and meaningfully
  • Remember details from stories in a logical sequence
  • Broad vocabulary developed
  • Describe the size, shape, and colour of objects
  • Identify the differences and similarities between objects
  • Recognise letters particularly those in their name
  • Understand concepts of time such as before and after


School readiness can be shaped and influenced by the child, parents, and teachers. Involvement of significant people in the child’s life can positively affect their readiness for the Grade 1 environment, by motivating them to respond positively towards school. By stimulating your child’s senses and slowly introducing new concepts, such as numbers, colours, and shapes, you can influence your child’s readiness to learn. If you are aware of your child’s strengths and areas for potential growth, you can then assist your child in preparing for a positive experience of formal learning.

A school readiness assessment (usually done in the third term of their Grade R year) is a good way to determine if your child is displaying the necessary skills that they require for Grade 1. The results also give both the teacher, and you as the parent, information regarding your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and which areas need to be developed before beginning Grade 1. Fun and creative activities can be suggested to build on the necessary skills through everyday life and play.

Every child is unique and develops at their own rate. Schooling in general is based on an average learner of a certain age in terms of development. We cannot expect all children to learn in the same way, and at the same speed. We need to be adapting our expectations and the environment for the child, not trying to squeeze the child into the mould created by society. By understanding your child’s strengths and areas for growth you can assist them to experience success and reach their full potential.


“Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. Childhood is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace which is right for each individual child.”
— Magda Gerber