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Kindergarten Entrance Age Dilemma

written by: Andrea Coventry • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 7/12/2012

Will my child be the youngest in class? Is my child mature and social enough to join kindergarten? Am I giving my child any academic advantage by holding him back from kindergarten? These are some questions in the minds of the parents who aren't sure what age is appropriate for kindergarten.

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    Are They Ready?

    Kindergartens facilitate the easy transition of a child from home school or pre-school to elementary school. The very purpose of kindergarten is to develop the social and cognitive abilities of the children through various games and creative activities. In the USA, the cutoff age for entrance to kindergarten varies across the states. This has further added to the confusion of parents regarding when to admit their children into kindergarten.

    Will my child be the youngest in class? Is my child mature and social enough to join kindergarten? Am I giving my child any academic advantage by holding him back from kindergarten? Will my child’s valuable year get wasted? Does academic redshirting have any long-term benefits? – These are some of the numerous questions in the minds of the parents that have led to this dilemma.

    “Academic redshirting" or “graying" of kindergarten refers to the delaying of entrance of children into kindergarten and allowing them to repeat preschool just because they are too young or if their birthdays are very close to the cutoff date set by the school. Many parents feel that by academic redshirting their kids, they are always putting them in an academically advantageous position, wherein they will be older and more mature than their classmates.

    In particular, kids who are born in “summer" months undergo academic redshirting if the school starts by September. Surprisingly, people are happier if a boy child is redshirted – this is on the basis of a common belief that younger boys tend to lack sufficient maturity and ability to concentrate in order to sit through the half-day kindergarten sessions, which are now extended to full day in many states.

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    Should I Hold Back My Child?

    In fact, there is no proven evidence that kids who are older than their classmates are at an advantage. Although many studies have been conducted in this regard, the results are not sufficiently consistent. Some parents insist that by delaying their kid from joining kindergarten, he or she will be more physically fit and socially mature. At times, in a classroom where there has been considerable redshirting, the younger ones may feel left out of place.

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    Will Repeating Preschool Affect My Child?

    Every child should be considered as unique. Similarly, their readiness to join school also varies. Sometimes, young kids tend to show more academic competence and maturity than older ones. At times, older kids may stand above younger ones in terms of physical fitness and sport. Amidst this group, there might be one or two special children who just fail to interact or understand what is going around them. Unfortunately, schools do not consider all of these differences between children of this age.

    Therefore, repeating preschool does not place the kid at an academic advantage everytime – although there are exceptions. If we consider the outcomes on a long-term basis, older kids may attain puberty faster and they tend to get left out at times from their younger classmates; in contrast, they may also gain the admiration of their peers. When asked, some kids opined that repeating preschool turned out to be a boring routine for them. On the contrary, certain socially withdrawn kids improved their socialization skills when they repeated preschool. Therefore, there is no strong evidence related to whether delaying the kid’s entry to kindergarten is going to help him/her.

    In short, redshirting is not a very serious issue, but it should not go entirely unnoticed. If the kid appears to be shy and not mature enough to his/her parents, then it is better to give the child more time in preschool. As long as there is no strong evidence regarding whether this tendency places the kid in an academically brilliant bracket, starting early is never a foolish option.

    Many times, it is just the hype that is created among the parents on this dilemma related to the entrance age in kindergarten – surprisingly, most kids hardly notice the age of their peers, and they gel and grow along with them. Moreover, it should be agreed upon that by admitting older kids, the very purpose of kindergarten is lost.