Functional status was formally assessed in 149 of 153 surviving members of an extremely preterm (< or = 28 weeks) birth cohort born at one tertiary center between 1983 and 1986. The children were observed in the completion of motor, speech and self-care tasks, and administered either the Vineland Daily Living Skills Scale (VDLS) or the Functional Independence Measure for children (WeeFIM). 31 children had major neurodevelopmental impairment. Only 5 per cent were considered to have severe functional limitation. The prevalence of functional limitation varied by definition: 11 children were limited using the WeeFIM instrument and 35 using the VDLS instrument. These findings suggest that the majority of extremely preterm children are functional at kindergarten entry, but will require continuous monitoring of academic skills.