As an educational psychologist, parents frequently ask me about kindergarten readiness. They want to know if their child will be at a disadvantage by being younger than their peers or if they could benefit from starting school a year older.
It’s estimated that between 4 and 5.5 percent of children are delayed from starting kindergarten, according to a research article published in Sage Journal. Many parents consider this option if their child is eligible to start kindergarten and their birthday falls near the cut-off date, which is September 1 in California. In fact, this scenario accounts for over 70 percent of the students who are “redshirted,” with the majority of these students being male, according to U.S. News.
In my opinion, each child and scenario is different. Just because a boy was born in July or August, does not necessarily mean he should be delayed in starting kindergarten. Despite the number of harrowing articles on the internet cautioning parents against sending their young five-year-old’s to kindergarten, research has shown little difference between kids who started earlier versus those who started later, as affirmed by Mayo Clinic.
While I do offer kindergarten readiness testing, which provides insight and data to aid the decision-making process, there are several things you can do as the school year approaches, even if you aren’t certain you want your child to start kindergarten as soon as they are eligible.
1. Fill out the paperwork to register your child. There is no penalty for changing your mind after enrollment. Should you decide last minute to start your child that year, you won’t have to jump through hoops to get them enrolled if you already registered them.
2. Consider how much your child will grow. Between birth and age five, your child’s brain has developed more than it will at any other time in their life. That growth continues in the time leading up to the first day of school and they will mature even more once they are in the classroom.
3. Gage their interpersonal skills and readiness to learn. Consider how well they do the following:
-Get along with others
-Sit and attend
-Perform on demand
If they seem to perform well in these areas, that may be a strong indication they are ready. If not, these skills may become more developed in the next few months, or your child may benefit from working on these with you or in preschool.
4. Consider how your decision will impact later years. Would you prefer your child begin driving before many of their peers and graduating a year older? Or driving later than their peers and graduating a year younger? There are compelling arguments for either side. In the end, it comes down to your personal preference.
5. Speak with a professional. Your child’s pediatrician or a teacher at a neighboring elementary school may have insight that could help. Taking advantage of any open houses for prospective families is also advisable. If you are looking for more concrete evidence for your child’s readiness, testing is available. Please contact me if you would like to know more about what is involved in kindergarten readiness testing.
It’s common for parents to wonder if they’ll need to keep their child at home or in preschool an additional year when their birthday falls in the spring or summer months. However, “redshirting” younger kids should not be the rule of thumb. Every child is different, and they will grow so much in the months leading to the first day of kindergarten.
Laurie Adachi is a licensed educational psychologist, with a background as a credentialed school psychologist. She has held a private practice in Santa Clarita, CA for over 20 years. She is passionate about equipping parents and students with personalized strategies to help them overcome learning challenges and more.