Ready for Pre-K: Social-emotional milestones

4 ways to tell if your child is socially & emotionally ready for the next step.

Learning Stages

By Clement Chau, Ph.D.

LeapFrog Learning Expert

As the children and media expert on the Learning Team, Clement primarily works on toys and digital products related to social studies, creativity, life skills and early childhood development. Before joining LeapFrog, he was an early education consultant, a media literacy researcher at the MIT Comparative Media Studies department, a researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston, and a researcher and lecturer at the Tufts University Developmental Technologies Research Group. Clement received his PhD from Tufts University's Eliot Pearson Department of Child Development and completed his dissertation on evaluating children's mobile apps.

This is a stage of exciting expansion. Children this age seem to talk constantly, giving you a glimpse into their inner world. They are often bubbling with energy, busy practicing new language, social, physical and reasoning skills that are not yet perfected.

To understand whether your child is socially and emotionally ready for Pre-K, assess how your child compares to the following statements in 4 key areas.


  • I play independently for a period of time.
  • I enjoy doing some things on my own sometimes, such as looking at a book or getting dressed.

Making friends

  • I am interested in meeting new friends and joining children who are playing.
  • I play side-by-side with a friend and we talk about what we’re doing.


  • I can be away from my parent or caregiver for several hours without getting upset.
  • I can stay with an adult, like my grandparent, for several hours or even overnight.


  • I adapt to routines in my daily life, and I don’t get upset when my routines change.
  • I anticipate what comes next during the day, such as naptime follows lunch.