School Readiness

Last revised - August 19, 2022

Is your child ready for school?

Starting school is a very exciting and important time for your child and family. Start as early as possible to help your child get ready for school. Remember it is never too late to start…

Complete each section below to guide you on your school readiness journey. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, talk to your health care practitioner, Public Health Nurse or Early Childhood Educator.

A "wait and see" approach is not recommended.

Child Development

To understand your child's development, complete the right Looksee Checklist® for their age.

  • The Looksee Checklist® (formerly Nipissing District Developmental Screen®-NDDS) is a short and simple checklist that reviews your child's growth and development at a specific age (up to 6 years old). 
  • Follow the instructions for the Looksee Checklist® and if you need more help or support to complete it, please call a Public Health Nurse see the number below. 

For more information on a child’s development please visit Best Start - The On Track Guide (PDF)

Dental Health

Baby teeth are important for eating, talking, smiling, overall health and for keeping space for the adult teeth to grow. Visit your dentist or a free dental screening at an OPH Dental Drop-in before starting school.

For more information on keeping your child’s teeth healthy please visit our Dental Health webpage.


To protect children from disease outbreaks, the "Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA)" requires that all students in Ontario have proof of immunization according to the provincial schedule.

Parents are responsible for reporting their child’s immunizations to Ottawa Public Health.

For more information please visit our Immunization webpage.

Visual Health

It is important to take your child to an optometrist to get an eye exam every year. Vision problems can affect learning, social development, self-esteem and hand-eye coordination.

Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers the cost of one eye exam every 12 months for children under the age of 19 years. Parents should book an eye exam for their child before starting school.

To find an optometrist please visit the Ontario Association of Optometrists .

Children starting Junior Kindergarten are eligible for the Eye See…Eye Learn® program.  All children participating in the Eye See…Eye Learn® program who need a pair of glasses will receive one pair free of charge.  For more information, please visit Eye See…Eye Learn® .  

For more information on please visit our Visual Health webpage.


Communication skills are very important for learning in school and in life. Children should be talking by 2 years of age and have 100 or more words. When starting school they should be able to speak well enough for others to understand them most of the time. 

Remember it is not recommended to take a "wait and see" approach.

To check your child’s speech and language skills, complete the online screening tool, First Words Communication Checkup.  

For more information on speech and language please visit the First Words webpage.

Your child's mental health needs the same attention as their physical health. Children at 4 years of age are developing many skills such as: Self-Regulation, Self Awareness, Social Awareness and Relationships. These learned skills are key to success in school and in life. As a parent, you play an important role in teaching and modeling these skills. To learn more about emotional development please visit our Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health webpage.

At four years of age, children will be able to talk about many types of feelings, are better able to manage impulses, are interested in new experiences, shows empathy for others and is more even tempered and cooperative.

As a parent it is important to stay calm and be a positive role model. Maintaining a deep nurturing connection with your child continues to be a priority. As much as possible, resist the urge to punish and use positive discipline. 

A close relationship between parents and children is critical to a child’s emotional health. You know your child better than anyone else.

Don’t hesitate to get help. Remember it is no longer recommended to take a "wait and see" approach.

For more information, please visit our Children and Mental Health webpage.


Cognitive development is a child’s ability to think, understand, communicate, remember, imagine and figure out what will happen next. 

It develops over time as your child interacts with the world around them. Provide a variety of activities, experiences, language to support your child’s cognitive development. 

Play based learning is best for preschool children.

Here are some ideas to support a child’s cognitive development:

  • Attend a playgroup or library story time
  • Play simple games like ‘Snakes and ladders’ or ‘Go fish’
  • Read books daily
  • Try building activities with blocks or cardboard boxes
  • Sing songs that have dancing and hand actions
  • Have a child help you with cooking such as measuring, counting and naming healthy ingredients.

For more information, please visit the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development (CEECD) website.


A good night's sleep is important for optimal growth and development. It also helps a child learn and can reduce problems with behaviour and mental health.

Having a regular bedtime routine with your child can make it easier for everyone. 

According to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, children 3-4 years old need 10 to 13 hours of good quality sleep per day (including naps).

Sleep is important for parents too. For more information, please visit the National Sleep Foundation or the Canadian Sleep Society websites. 

You can also visit our Sleep webpage.

Nutrition & Physical Activity

Growing children need healthy food. Follow the tips provided by Ottawa Public Health Dieticians on our Healthy Eating web page.

Your 4 year old child needs 180 minutes of play based physical activity every day.

Screen time including smartphones, tablets, television, and video games should be one hour per day or less.

For more information about screen time, visit the Caring for Kids website.

For more information, visit our Physical activity and play webpage.

Dressing and Toileting

Children starting kindergarten need to be able to dress themselves and use the bathroom without help. 

Start early to teach your child how to dress and undress. Provide lots of opportunities to practice at home. If possible, choose clothing that is easy for them to get on and off and to fasten and unfasten. 

Most children start toilet learning around the age of 2, but this is not always the case. Some children start later and that is ok. Toilet learning can take up to 6 months before your child is out of diapers. Be patient, accidents will happen. By the time children start junior kindergarten, they should be mostly accident free during the day. It may take longer for them to stay dry at night. 

For more information, please visit our Toilet Learning webpage.

Other Resources
Mental Health Community Resources

Helpful Mental Health web links

Other Community Resoures

Resources for Professionals

Do you have more questions?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse and other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.

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