'The 5 things I want my kids to learn before they start school.'

Thanks to our brand partner, C&K

When my son Max was born almost four years ago, I made a bit of a promise to myself.

I didn't want to spend his first five years stressing about him getting ready for school. You know, spending every waking moment learning letters and numbers, trying to get him 'ahead'.

I made the same promise again when my daughter Georgie was born 15 months ago.

Learning is not just about ticking off the boxes. It's about feeling things and making discoveries for yourself.

It's a holistic philosophy that's being embraced in the world of early learning, in places like C&K. C&K has cared for more than one million children since opening its doors in 1907, and if there's one thing they've seen first-hand it's that focusing on social and emotional growth through play creates lifelong skills in under-fives - ones that go well beyond ABCs and 123s.

This learning philosophy is all about letting kids explore, be curious, solve problems and cooperate with others. And these foundations will last a lifetime. The role of teachers, at a place like C&K, is to help nurture a child's curiosity and build resilience and confidence through play.

So, for the last four years that's exactly what I've tried to do with Max, and now with Georgie, focusing on what I think are the five most important things needed before starting school. Here they are:

1. To embrace joy.

Now, that doesn't mean we steam-roll over sad feelings. In fact, we embrace the full spectrum of emotions in this house as research shows that if you need a good ol' cry, you should. It's healthy!


But I want both kids to find joy in the smallest of things. That could be picking flowers or playing with a bowl filled with bubbly water on the hot summer's day.

Why? Well, as C&K state in their curriculum, which focuses on uninterrupted play to encourage a positive half-glass-full attitude, that if you set the foundations for this mindset in pre-school children, then it leads to other positive character traits, like resilience and curiosity.

Research shows that optimistic children generally turn into successful adults. And I'm not talking about successful in terms of dollar. Success for us in our family is benchmarked at feeling fulfilled with our lot, from taking joy from the small moments in our day, and most importantly, on a bad day, believing "this too shall pass".

2. Sharing is caring.

"Please share!" is the most well-oiled verse for any parent in the first few years. For most of us, we're even saying it way before our little ones really understand what those words mean. I know that I did.

But why is it important to me? Well, it's part of learning to respect each other, and how to work together in a community.

Plus, if I'm totally honest, in a world that can be a bit unfair sometimes, I want my children to not only understand the concept of fairness but to have the ability to stand tall and strongly say when something isn't fair, and especially if the injustice isn't aimed at them.

Sharing? Max has definitely learnt a bit of that since Georgie came along. Image: Amy Nelmes Bissett.


3. Mastering the art of persistence.

We've all heard 'resilience' over and over again. But there's a reason why it's important.

Resilience is the foundation block for mental wellbeing and as the daughter of a psychologist, I was told of its super-power qualities early on and as a result, it's been a big focus for my children.

It's perhaps no surprise that C&K also have resilience at the heart of its programme for under-fives, based on an understanding that play is exactly how us humans learn resilience. It comes from rising to a challenge, from believing in your ability and understanding that accomplishments are a step-by-step journey. 


In our home, that is as simple as encouraging Georgie to put blocks on top of each to make a tower, until it's no longer just two blocks but five. That's seeing Max seeing someone swinging from the monkey bars and letting him know that with practice – and persistence – he can do it too.

4. Don't be shy of "Why?"

I counted how many times I heard the word "why" in one single day last week and it was 34. Now, I don't have a never-ending pit of patience, but when that "why?" is actually a genuine question (rather than "but why do I have to eat that carrot?") we do a deep dive and it becomes our family obsession for a while.

The current talking point is cassowaries. We know more about cassowaries in our house than cassowaries know about cassowaries, if you catch my drift. This weekend we made cassowaries out of salt dough (not to scale) and placed them around the garden, which makes me sound like a super mum but I'll take it back to reality with this snippet: I found the youngest in the garden eating one, and the red and blue paint were less troubling than the amount of sodium that one of those hobbled cassowaries held.

Wonder and curiosity in children is, well, wonderful and I want them both to always feel confident in asking "why?" for the rest of their lives. It's something many of us lose as we get older and feel we should know everything, including how to wash sodium out of the system of a 15-month-old!

What's beyond the door? The big wide world... Image: Amy Nelmes Bissett.


5. Build their confidence.

It's perhaps the most important, isn't it? Without it, the others just wouldn't happen.

There is nothing I want more for my children before they start school than to have a deep confidence in themselves, in embracing their feelings (especially of happiness) and a confidence to tell someone to share their toys if they aren't.

And it's even better if it comes from play, rather than me hollering, "PLEASE TAKE TURNS! C'MON SHAAAARE!"

If you'd like more tips and information about starting childcare or kindergarten, visit

Experience how we learn through play at C&K. See how we nurture each child's mind and body, and prepare them for school and life beyond. Our teachers will guide your child's learning journey and fill their days will be filled with joy and wonder. C&K has cared for and educated over one million children since we were established in 1907. We have over 330 kindergartens and childcare centres around Queensland, and as a not-for-profit, children come first in everything we do.