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Estimated read time : 11 minutes

With the school year about to begin, the team at ‘That Parent Thing’ answered the frequently asked questions around pre-school and school readiness

By what primary school age should I enroll my child in a mainstream school?

Ideally, a small school environment or a preschool environment is conducive for the all-round development of a child who is of primary school age. This is because of the ample opportunity to develop social and emotional skills in addition to academic skills in small group size.

There is a better adult to child ratio, ensuring more personalised attention. Since the environment is also relatively more flexible than the structured environment of the mainstream school, it can make the transition from home to school smoother. So it is preferable to complete pre-primary schooling in a preschool and then move onto a mainstream school for grade I.

The primary school age at the entry to grade I depend on the school, however, as per the NCERT guidelines, a child should be admitted to the early primary class by 5+ years. As per the RTE Act 2009, the primary school age of admission in class I is 6 years.

What is the importance of nursery school and should I enrol my child for it?

Brain development is the fastest from birth to 3 years of age. We should not miss this window of opportunity to provide an enriching environment that would facilitate the all-round development of a child. The importance of nursery school lies in the fact that language skills and social skills are enhanced in a group setting. Emotional development is yet another important aspect.

Preschools that offer nursery programs cater to these needs. It is very difficult to replicate this social or learning environment at home and so you may want to send your child for a 2 to 3-hour nursery program.

How can my child transition from a small group setting to a large group setting?

One of the best parenting tips for childcare is to develop their social skills early on. The socialisation of children is important as it develops their social skills, helping them build positive peer relationships. This begins with me-myself then extends to immediate family and next they take on a friend or two, as they grow older.

The social set up in a classroom enables socialisation of children, helping them build more relationships with adults and other children. By the time children are 5 years of age, they also show preferences in their association. So transitioning from a small group to a large group set up is a milestone that occurs naturally, provided that the children are in a healthy social setting.

Who decides the school admission age criteria?

The school admission age criteria are stipulated by the NCERT. The state also draws guidelines on the appropriate age for admission into Grade 1. The schools have their guidelines depending on the curriculum that they follow for school admission age.

Which is better: CBSE, ICSE or IGCSE IB?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Each of these boards follow a curriculum that addresses the holistic development of the child. While the approach may vary, the difference between CBSE and ICSE board lies in the implementation of the curriculum and the assessments patterns. However, all of them have their merits.

CBSE and ICSE are national curricula while IB and IGCSE are international programs. When compared to the national education boards, IGCSE and IB appear to have an advantage as they have an international orientation in addition to the ingredients for subject knowledge building.

The emphasis on language acquisition also gives them an edge over CBSE, and to a lesser extent, over ICSE.

The curriculums of CBSE and ICSE are well-grounded and keep getting updated. The NCERT syllabus followed by the national boards is comprehensive and is said to inculcate an affinity towards learning and discipline, required for higher studies.

What we need to also remember is that the education scenario is changing. So instead of looking at outcomes at grade 10, the focus should be on a good school environment that brings out the best in the child irrespective of the curricula adopted by the school. We should look at schools as a platform to develop life skills and not merely to address career goals.

Is it okay to expose children to multiple languages when they are still so young?

Ages 3 to 6 are a vital stage of childhood in terms of language development in children, learning and overall development. Young children are capable of learning multiple languages and early childhood is the optimum time for them to begin.

Research shows that children raised in multilingual environments develop core cognitive skills like decision-making and problem-solving. Being multilingual boosts cognitive development which helps in overall academic progress. So it is good to expose children to multiple languages during the early child language development years.

When should you start reading to your baby?

The earlier the better! Starting to read to your child from a young age is important because the roots of language are developing in a baby’s brain even before the baby can talk. Of course, your child may not understand the meaning of what you read to begin with, but the different rhythms and sounds will help to stimulate and develop his hearing as well as lay good foundations for listening skills later on in life.

You can start with a picture book, the transition to a large print book, and then to books with more printed content. Preferably start with books with limited vocabulary and one that has the words repeated multiple times. This will help the child in retention of the new word. No matter how old your baby is, regular reading helps your baby understand that books are fun. What’s more, reading to your baby provides a little moment of quiet and togetherness that you can both enjoy. Curling up together with a story is a wonderfully calming addition to your baby’s bedtime routine.

At what age should children start writing?

Writing skills for children develop in stages. The first stage of writing is the random scribbling which starts at 15 months or so. This is the period when young children are just figuring out that their movements result in the lines and scribbles they see on the page. These scribbles are usually the result of large movements from the shoulder, with the crayon or marker held in the child’s fist.

As children develop better control over the muscles in their hands and fingers, their scribbles begin to change and become more controlled. This happens around 2 years of age. Toddlers may make repeated marks on the page – open circles, diagonal, curved, horizontal, or vertical lines. Over time, children make the transition to holding the crayon or marker between their thumb and pointer finger.

By around 2.5 years, children understand that writing is made up of lines, curves and repeated patterns. They try to imitate this in their own writing. So while they may not write actual letters, you may see components of letters in their drawing. These might include lines, dots, and curves.

This is an exciting time as your toddler realises that her drawings convey meaning. For example, she/he may write something down and then tell you what word it says. This is an important step toward reading and writing.

By around 3 years of age, children begin to purposefully draw images. 3-year-old writing skills are an important milestone in thinking skills because it means that the child understands that lines on paper can be a symbol of something else, like a house, a cat, or a person. At this stage, children also begin to understand the difference between pictures and writing. So you may see the child draw a picture and then scribble some “words” underneath to describe what he has drawn or to tell a story.


Writing skills for children typically start developing when children begin ascribing meaning to their sketches. By 3.5 years, there is more stress on formation of the letters and associating the sound to the letter.  By 5 years, they are ready to write simple words, phrases and even short sentences.

What do I need to do from my end to ensure my child is ready for a mainstream school?

Mainstream schools will address the academic needs of children. So making your child big-school ready should therefore focus mainly on social and emotional skills. Developing confidence and independence is equally important. Some of the things parents can do is ensure that your child is exposed to a social setting, maybe at playtime or play dates. Encourage independence by letting them clothe themselves, put on their footwear on their own or clean up after play. Play games with your little one – simple games like snakes and ladders, Pictionary or maybe I Spy. These are great opportunities for practicing turn-taking, sharing, waiting and learning to cope with not winning.

What kind of a routine should I try to inculcate before my child goes to a mainstream school?

Children thrive on routine and getting them ready for school would mean bringing in more discipline into their routine with respect to meal time and nap times. Ensure though that the meal time and nap time is consistent and adheres to the schedule. Using the toilet should also become a matter of routine.

Encourage conversations, encourage your child to attempt tasks independently and prepare her/him for the new environment by describing what to expect and the people she would meet.

How do I find a good school for my child?

Each parent has a set of expectations from school and they are different for different parents. So if you are wondering how to choose a school for your child, first decide on what you expect from the school. Visit schools that you have shortlisted. Consider the daily routine at school, travel time, school fees, transport, meal plan, co-curricular and extracurricular activities offered, availability of outdoor space amongst other aspects. Talk to parents who have their children already enrolled in the school. Before you visit the school, prepare your list of questions that you want to be answered by the school.

Remember though that each child is different and it is important therefore to find the right child-school-parent fit that works for all.