Is There A 'BEST' Age To Enroll Your Child In Kindergarten?

7 years ago we had a choice to make.  It was a choice that many of you will be making in the near future.  To send your child to kindergarten when they are 5 or 6 years old is quite a dilemma for parents.  I’m gonna go over the pros and cons to starting school early and tell you about our experience as first time parents that made that decision years ago. Then you can hopefully decide which is best for you and your child.


When I was a kid, growing up this wasn’t really a dilemma.  Parents pretty much enrolled their child in kindergarten as soon as they were school age…which in most cases meant 5 years old. My older brother however was even younger…he was only 4! 4 years old and sent off to school. He jokes that our mom just wanted to get rid of him…haha, poor lil guy, I’m guessing he was just smart and that was kind of the norm back then; if kids made the cut off dates then they were enrolled.  Nowadays it’s a bit different, especially where we live. We enrolled our oldest son when he was still 4, although school wouldn’t start until about 2 weeks after he had celebrated his 5th birthday.  


We had way more conversations with other parents about his age than we ever expected.  Many of them had looks of surprise that we were starting our son so young.  Some asked us if we were concerned about his size or ability. We didn’t realize that many of them waited an extra year before putting their kids (boys mostly) in school…not to gain more intelligence over the course of the year, but so that they would grow taller.  Huh?

We had never even considered his size coming into play…these were in fact kindergartners we were discussing.  This is known as “red-shirting” which is a term mostly used in college sports but it apparently now applies to kindergartners.  In other words, parents were choosing to hold off on school enrollment an additional year with expectations that their child would gain in size and coordination which may benefit the child in later years with sports.  


These parents were thinking ahead, years ahead. They were thinking about their son’s size during his junior high and high school years.  We were then confused as to whether we were ready to be kindergarten parents when we hadn’t even thought about our son’s future 10 years away.  We didn’t worry if he would be big enough to handle himself on the basketball or football field in junior high.  We thought it was so bizarre that parents were keeping their boys back and starting them a year later.


Never even thought about size, we were concerned with intelligence and preparedness and our boy was smart and prepared.  He could write his name, alphabet (upper and lowercase) he knew colors, shapes and had a great vocabulary and clear speech.


So we enrolled him.


He was a little more emotional than some of the other boys in class.  He was very competitive and liked to excel but he had a more difficult time keeping his emotions in check.  We thought…oh man, is he too young for this?! Did we make a haste decision?  His teacher assured us that he was ranked towards the top of the class.  He was performing well, was well-liked among his classmates and that he was an overall good student… just a tad bit more sensitive.


Fast forward and that cute lil’ kindergartner with coffee colored eyes and a year-round surfer’s tan is just as cute and smart as ever but now he is in middle school.  The time has come where we are on the lookout for size and maturity and all the things our fellow parents had cautioned us about.  Here’s how its going…


Pretty well, I’d say.  He is a great student with A’s and B’s in a dual language immersion program.  He is funny, adorable and still sensitive.  As far as sports go he is as good as the effort he puts in.  He joined cross country when middle school started and did very well.  We were proud of his efforts and he enjoyed the camaraderie of being on the team.  He has played years of basketball on a city league and is a mix of aggression, accuracy and unhinged enthusiasm, lol…sometimes the ball went in, sometimes it was a big miss, but he was no less aggressive or enthusiastic than the other kids on the team.  I would say that I’m not really concerned about his size with sports.  I wish that he wasn’t as sensitive during times because I can imagine as a middle school boy that is one emotion that would be better left hidden at school, but I don’t think we made a mistake or misstep sending him to school as a young 5 year old.


My brother who started at age 4 was completely different than my son.  He was very tough, never cried and though he started his senior year of high school at age 16, which completely cracks me up now that I think of it, he had tons of friends.  His younger age didn’t stunt him socially or physically. He played football in high school and proved to be an asset to our school’s swim team as he broke school records and even ranked as a top swimmer in our city.  So as far as this red-shirting thing goes, I dunno? Maybe it makes a difference, maybe not, but everyone does what is best for their child and the best practice is to know your child and gauge each situation individually.  


Pros for Starting Kindergarten Early (age 5)

1. Get it done- just think these kids can start college a year younger than others.

2. Early Socialization- If kids start school earlier they will begin to learn social norms.

3. Avoid Preschool Costs- lets get financial.  Beginning public kindergarten does away with the need to pay private tuition at a preschool or day care.  

4. Hold Back- If by some chance (a move, poor performance, a family tragedy, etc) a grade needs to be repeated then your child’s age won’t make that fact as noticeable.


Cons for Starting Kindergarten Early (age 5)

1. Emotions- Younger students may have a more difficult time harnessing their emotions in class.

2. Physical Ability- There isn’t much difference in coordination between a 5 &6 year old but the gap may widen in middle school.

3. Keep Up- If your child can’t keep up with the curriculum then they may need to repeat a grade.


So there you go.  That’s my experience with it.  My husband and I would have still chosen to send our cute little guy to school at age 5 but there are pros and cons to our decision.  I think it is mostly a case-by-case decision that needs to consider each child on an individual basis.  The bummer thing is as a parent we can never be 100% sure our decisions are the best.  

Do your best, encourage your child to do his or her best and quit second guessing decisions that were made in the past.  Move forward & work with what ya’ got.

to help you better decide, Here are tangible skills that your child should know before starting Kindergarten:

  1. Child should be able to say their first and last name as well as write it correctly, with a capital initial letter.

2. Child should be able to properly hold and use writing instrument and scissors.

3. Student should recognize basic shapes and colors (triangle, square, rectangle, circle; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown, black, white.)

4. Child should share supplies and play well with others.

5. Child should be able to listen to instruction and stories while staying focused for 5-10 minutes at a time.

6. Child should be potty trained and competent to use the restroom alone and redress afterwards.

7. Student should recognize and write letters in the alphabet and numbers 1-10 independently.

8. Be able to identify upper and lower case letters.

9. Be ready to learn with a positive attitude.

What do you think? Do you have experience that swayed your decision one way or the other?