Kindergarten Considerations (Should I Send My Child to Kindergarten?)

Kindergarten Considerations

This is the time of year when I start getting questions for parents, “should I send my child to Kindergarten?”  Typically it’s coming from a parent whose child has a birthday within a couple months of the cut-off age and isn’t necessarily a student of mine.  Regardless of whether there’s delayed speech or language, my answer is nearly always an emphatic “no!”

Parents, even teachers, are often so caught up in readiness skills.  Do they know colors and shapes?  Can they follow directions and show some patience?  But even for those students who clearly are capable of a kindergarten curriculum, if they have a birthday that has them younger than the majority of their classmates, I recommend waiting a year.

It isn’t easy for parents to hear, especially if it’s the youngest child and mom is really looking forward to having everyone off at school.  But the decision is one that has implications for a child’s entire academic career, not just the kindergarten year and should be based more on social issues rather than academic ability.

It’s an unfortunate fact, though hard to believe when you look at your 5 year old, that at some point they will be offered a cigarette, alcohol or drugs.  For me, I’d rather my child be older rather than the youngest classmate when that happens.

Same with driving.  I may have a rule, no driving with a peer until you have a license yourself, but it will be easier to enforce and they won’t feel as left out if they aren’t a year behind in getting their license.

Dating?  I know my husband wants my daughter asked to the prom by a classmate that’s the same age (or younger, or, frankly not at all) rather than older.

I’ve seen seniors that sailed through high school with high marks, that were still very uncertain about heading to college and just because they were a typical 17 year old and not quite ready to leave home.

And back to academics, how many times have you seen a child ready for kindergarten that falters later?  Not because they’re struggling with the coursework on an intellectual level, but because they’re simply a year younger?  I see students at a rigorous private school and I’ll find myself explaining to both teachers and parents that while their child is struggling in the classroom, on testing everything looks rosy because they are being judged against same aged peers.

Many students need classroom support, but it’s not unusual for those same children to faulter with their self-esteem when they do.  Is it worth setting up a child with a developmentally more advanced school career than their age would suggest just because we think they can handle Kindergarten right now?

Concerned that waiting that extra year will have your child bored and twiddling their thimbs?  Given the choice, I’d much prefer to work on supplementing a child that’s sailing through class work and needs an additional challenge.

I have two children, both with fall birthdays and both are among the oldest in their class–I practice what I preach!  But it’s my opinion.  I’d love to hear yours whether you agree or (politely please!) dissent.


This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Valerie

    I have a son with a July birthday and I think he has really benefited from the extra year even though he was academically ready to enter K at just turned 5.

  2. Brenda

    Thank you for this post! I know how hard it is for parents to make choices like this. I am currently working with a child with severe speech delay with accompanying attention and behavior challenges. His parents are thinking of advancing him to K thinking he would benefit from the increased structure. I’m not so sure about that though. I’m thinking it would just be a greater challenge and he might end up less successful in the long term, especially with his communication barrier. Thoughts?

    1. admin

      Ah, that’s a tough one because I’ve seen plenty of kids that do better in a structured Kindergarten classroom with clear expectations than they did in preschool with all the “free play” time. Not sure how this works in your setting, but if there’s a possibility of repeating Kindergarten, I’d probably aim for that. Here, lots of preschool programs offer a Kindergarten year but then some students will choose to enter Kindergarten again at their district school the next year. If repeating isn’t an option, I’d stick with preschool and try to add appropriate modifications for structure. Kim

  3. Terri, SLP

    I have four children. They all have birthdays from Feb-June. I started all of them late, but 1. My biggest regret-the one that I didn’t start late. Curriculum’s across the country and common core is asking children to perform past their developmental level. They are just not ready to read when we are asking them to read. Anyway, my oldest (started late) is excelling as a soon to be 18 year old junior. My second oldest (started on time) is struggling as a 16 year old sophomore. What is she struggling with most? Social stuff. It’s also distracting her from school. All the drama and angst about growing up. The younger two are still in middle and elementary and were both started late and I’m happy with how they are doing. I rarely (honestly-never) have heard someone regret starting their child late. I have heard MANY that wish they had started their children later.

    1. Terri, SLP

      Grammar mistakes….yikes. Responding from a phone makes proofing hard. Forgive them.

      1. admin

        But of course! I cringe when I see some of what I’ve sent from my phone! I have a daughter that’s finishing her freshman year and the social stuff is hard. I’m so thankful that she at least has the benefit of being one of the older ones because I fear it would be even more dramatic if she were the youngest. (And I’m really thankful that high school is only four years!). Kim

    2. admin

      Love what you’ve added here. It’s seems we’ve often lost sight of development in a quest to be competitive, not realizing we aren’t helping ourselves at all! Kim

  4. Mary-Beth

    I completely agree with you for both the developmental and social reasons!

    1. admin

      Nikki, Thank you so much. I’m returning the favor! Kim

  5. Brynn

    Two of my kids have mid-year birthdays, so started K when they were 5 1/2. My middle child, with a June birthday, started at 6. That was definitely best for him. He is smart. He knew his colors, shapes, letters, etc., and how to put together 100 piece Lego sets at age 5. But he needed more time to PLAY. So glad we decided to wait. Also, as a boy, it doesn’t hurt being a little bigger, faster, stronger, as those things contribute to social acceptance on the playground. I’m not sure if the same is true for girls.

    1. admin

      And you may find, as I have, that you are even happier with the decision as they progress through middle and high school. Thanks for commenting! Kim

  6. Carol

    My 3 sons are each a different temperament and personality. My oldest, now 28, has a late July birthday and didn’t start school until he was 6. My youngest, now 18 and a senior in h.s., has an early August birthday and didn’t start until he was 6. Both of them were not ready for school any sooner, although they were exposed to plenty of peers through church classes and one day per week of preschool. My middle, now 24, has an April birthday and was ready to go to school the day he turned 5 and so, he went to school at 5 1/2 and did fine. Each boy got time to be home, learn what mom the SLP could teach them and then go to school as eager and confident learners. I would do it the same way all over again. No regrets!

    1. admin

      Can’t ask for more than that! Kim

  7. S. Vogel

    I would have to respectfully, but partially, disagree. I have 3 of 4 children whose birthdays are in May to early July. All of them will or have started school as 5 yr olds. The reason for starting them early had more to do with the boredom of academics I was already seeing in them when attending what I call the under-excellerated preschool (didn’t sit in desks, didn’t do hardly any letter worksheets….not as common as would be expected). Especially my middle son (the July boy) I started at 5 because he was already wanting to learn more. Another year of preschool was not what he wanted or needed. He has now been identified as high ability; if he had been held back, his learning would have still progressed (after all, I am an SLP!) and I am very confident that he would have become a “disruptive” or “behavior” student. Is he somewhat immature to his classmates and does sometimes have issues with that. However, I’d rather that instead of serious behaviors from being “bored”….I don’t know that I would ever tell another parent a definite yes or no–it truly and really depends on the child and the family support.

    1. admin

      I do understand where you are coming from–attending to the needs of an advanced/gifted student is as challenging as one with learning difficulties. Kim

  8. Michelle

    Thank you, thank you for this post! I haven’t read through all of the comments yet, but plan to. I’m an SLP myself and totally appreciate other peers’ viewpoints on delaying kindergarten. I’m currently thinking about when to send my son to kinder (April birthday). Reading everyone’s experiences has been really insightful!

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The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.