When Is My Child Ready?

Learn the signs of readiness for childhood's important milestones.


Every child develops at a different rate. So how do you know when your little one is ready to accomplish some of childhood's important milestones? Here are some guidelines.

Potty Training

Age range: 2 to 3 1/2

Signs of readiness

  • Your child stays dry for at least 2 hours at a time.
  • He's dry for most of the day and after naps.
  • His bowel movements are regular and predictable. He has certain facial expressions, posture, or words that reveal when he's about to urinate or defecate.
  • He can follow simple instructions.
  • He can walk to and from the bathroom and undress himself.
  • He seems uncomfortable with soiled diapers and wants to be changed.
  • He asks to use the toilet, potty, or grow-up underwear.

Starting Preschool

Age range: 2 to 4

Signs of readiness

  • Your child listens to and obeys instructions.
  • She's toilet trained.
  • She's comfortable playing with other kids and gets along well with them.
  • She's sensitive to other children's feelings.
  • She knows how to take turns and share with others.
  • She can sit still and listen to a story.
  • She can successfully use the zippers and buttons on her clothing.
  • She knows her name, address, and telephone number.
  • She's okay being away from you for hours at a time.
  • She's well behaved while being watched by others.
  • She can stay active for hours without napping.

Playing Team Sports

Age range: 4 to 8

Signs of readiness

  • Your child can focus on one activity for two hours or more.
  • He's participated in activities that have "teams."
  • His motor skills are average to above average.
  • He follows directions well.
  • He's expressed an interest in playing sports.
  • He's average to above-average size for his age.
  • He's generally healthy.
  • He can successfully throw, catch, and kick a ball.
  • He's polite when he loses a game.
  • He plays well with other children.

Walking to School

Age range: 9 to 10

Signs of readiness

  • Even while holding your hand, your child always looks both ways before crossing the street.
  • She seems in tune with and aware of her surroundings.
  • She's not easily distracted.
  • She understands what the "walk" and "don't walk" signs mean.
  • She knows not to talk to or get into the car with strangers.
  • She knows at least two ways to get to and from school.
  • She knows your home address and telephone number.

Staying Home Alone

Age range: 10 and up

Signs of readiness

  • Your child is above the minimum age in your state for staying home alone.
  • He would feel comfortable calling a neighbor for help.
  • He is able to take phone messages.
  • He would be able to tell visitors that Mom is "busy" even when she's not there.
  • He knows how to call 911 in case of an emergency.
  • He knows your cell phone number.
  • He can take instructions under pressure.
  • He's able to use keys and locks with ease.
  • He can make himself a simple meal.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5-12 (Bantam); The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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