When to Start Kindergarten? - TeachersAndFamilies

When to Start

Suggestions for Parents
From the National Association
of School Psychologists


Conclusion References

Should My Child Wait Another Year to Start School?

Although readiness is legally defined as reaching the age of five by a certain date, many parents and educators have become concerned that some kindergarten?aged children seem socially or physically immature or lacking the skills to read, write and compute. When parents believe their child may struggle or fail in kindergarten, delaying entrance by one year has become a common practice, and some educators have recommended it. Over the past 20 years or so, delaying entrance to kindergarten by one year has become a common response, especially for boys who turn five within four or five months of the kindergarten cutoff date. This practice is not equally common in all schools, and its advisability depends, of course, on the inidividual child.

A review of the research on delayed entrance and on children who are the youngest within their grade indicates that:

  • Delaying kindergarten until age six has not resulted in improvement in reading, writing or math skills;
  • At kindergarten and first grade, youngest children do score lower on achievement tests, but the difference tends to diminish as they move through school, usually disappearing by third grade (one researcher noted that six-year-olds should look more skilled than five-year-olds in kindergarten; they have been alive 20 percent longer!);
  • Delayed entrants at 4 to 12 years after entering school were no more academically skilled, athletically involved or socially successful than students who had entered kindergarten after just turning five-years-old;
  • Students who are one year "too old" for a grade level are much more likely to drop out of high school.

If you are considering delayed entrance: Experts in child development generally agree that, rather than trying to fit the child to the program, schools should tailor the program to accommodate the individual differences in the kindergarten class. Teachers should assess each child's entrance skills and design curriculum to advance him or her to the next skill level. So before deciding to delay a child's entrance to kindergarten by one year, parents should consider:

  • Meeting with the prospective kindergarten teacher to discuss how the school program would meet their child's individual needs and skill level, keeping in mind that the only school entrance requirement is to be five-years-old; or
  • Requesting formal educational assessment if there is concern that the child may have an educational disability. Preschool special education services may be available.


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Much of this material was originally developed by Paula Laidig, Ph.D., NCSP, a school psychologist in the Stillwater (MN) Area Schools. An earlier version of this article was published in "Helping Children at Home and School: Handouts From Your School Psychologist" (National Association of School Psychologists, 1998).
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