When Do Kids Start Kindergarten And Things To Consider

Be informed of the right age and other details before enrolling a child in kindergarten.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Rana Chanchal, MD, DCH Dr. Rana Chanchal Dr. Rana ChanchalMD, DCH facebook_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon Specialty: Pediatrics and NeonatologyExperience: 8 years
Written by Soma Sengupta
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As your child grows, you may ponder the question — when do kids start kindergarten? Kindergarten is the period of a child’s development that prepares and nurtures them for advanced schooling. In addition, it inculcates beginner’s lessons and skills in your children to help them throughout their schooling.

Since every child has unique learning capabilities, determining the right age to send your child to kindergarten can be a head-scratcher. You need to consider your child’s rate of development to know the right age to start their schooling.

Read through this post if you are among those parents facing a similar predicament in determining your children’s right schooling age. Here you will get the answers to your questions regarding when do kids start kindergarten, along with things to consider before sending your child to kindergarten.

When Do Kids Start Kindergarten?

The minimum age for starting kindergarten ranges from four to six years and could depend on numerous factors. According to the latest data by the State Education Practices (SEP), National Center for Education Statistics 2020, the age for kindergarten entrance is five years in most states of the United States (1).

In the United States, some of the district schools offer a full-day kindergarten program to children, while others offer a half-day kindergarten program.

When Is The Kindergarten Cut-off Date?

As per the Education Commission of the States (ECS), the cut-off date varies depending on specific states and districts (2). While some states set the cut-off date as “age 5 on or before September 1,” others set the date as “age 5 on or before September 30.”
As the cut-off dates may vary depending on the state you reside in and may be updated periodically, always check the state’s website or the ECS website for the latest details.

Reasons To Delay Kindergarten

Delaying a child’s entrance into kindergarten is often termed as “academic redshirting.” Several factors play an essential role in shaping a parent’s decision to redshirt a child. These factors may include the social, emotional, physical, and developmental maturity of the child as well as their reading skills and the socio-economic status of the family.

A few parents view redshirting as beneficial for their young ones as they believe younger children lag behind their classmates. They feel that being older will make their child more advanced, and thus, they intentionally hold back their children for a year (3).
Some of the common factors why some parents delay sending their children to kindergarten include the following.

1. Maturity

Some parents think that their child isn’t matured enough to do self-care activities such as using the restroom independently, buttoning, or zipping. Also, they are apprehensive about if the child is ready to stay away from home for a few hours. These factors might make them hold their children back.

2. Cost of child care

Due to financial problems, some parents may opt to wait until they overcome their financial challenges.

3. Individual development of the child

Pre-existing health conditions that result in delayed physical, mental, and emotional development of a child can also force parents to wait a little longer before they enroll their child in kindergarten.

Redshirting may benefit a few children, but it comes with its drawbacks as well. It can help some children get that extra year to develop further at home, but, at the same time, the redshirted children may find it difficult to make friendships with their younger classmates, especially when they grow a little older.

Disadvantages Of Starting Kindergarten At An Early Age

While rare, some parents may decide to send their children early to kindergarten. Here are a few disadvantages that children may face if they start kindergarten early.

1. Lack of one-on-one time

At home, there is individualized attention on children, which cannot be found at any preschool. In preschools, a teacher’s attention is often divided among the children, so there is a lack of one-on-one time. This may restrict a child’s development.

2. Learning too many things

In preschools, children are introduced to many things, such as reading, writing, and math. Besides, they need to work together with their peers, for which some children may not be ready yet. Your child may not be ready to learn and assimilate all the information at kindergarten, and this could affect their love of learning.

3. Separation anxiety

It is challenging for young children to separate from their parents. Some children may not be ready to go to kindergarten as they need more attention from their parents, and a few may go through separation anxiety as a result.

What Should Parents Consider Before Putting Their Child In Kindergarten?

Several indicators help determine a child’s readiness for kindergarten. A child’s development should not be evaluated based on only one specific area; instead, it needs to be assessed in many areas. School districts use some assessment tests to check a child’s readiness for kindergarten, and they also ask some questions to test the child’s cognitive abilities.

However, parents should not make their decisions based entirely on this result. Instead, consider the observations by pediatricians and assess the following abilities and skills of your child (4) (5) (6).

  • Strong language skills
  • Maturity to interact with classmates
  • Interest in books, sounds, and words
  • Ability to sit in one place
  • Ability to respond when asked a question
  • Ability to manage frustration
  • Ability to follow instructions
  • Ability to cooperate with peers
  • Desire to be independent
  • Enthusiasm towards learning

Besides these abilities, several academic indicators can help a parent decide whether their child is ready for kindergarten based on the presence of the following skills.

  • Letter and sound recognition: The child can recognize the letters of the alphabet and name a word that starts with each letter. They can even recognize the sounds of birds and animals.
  • Writing: The child can write the letters of the alphabet.
  • Numbers: The child can count up to 10 or 20 or even more and recognize the numbers.
  • Reading: The child may not be able to read properly but know how to hold a book and understand that words go from left to right.
  • Colors and shapes: The child can understand and recognize a few colors and shapes.

It may not always be necessary for the child to have the aforementioned skills. When children develop emotional, physical, and cognitive skills, they are more likely to participate in school activities with enthusiasm.

Some kindergartens provide a homely environment to children, where they learn and explore by doing various activities. Other kindergartens follow formal programs that mark the beginning of a formal education system.

So, before approaching a school, understand the culture and approach of the school and make the right decision.

How Can Parents Prepare Their Children For Kindergarten?

The following are a few things that parents could do to prepare their children for kindergarten (6).

  • Arrange playdates with children of the same age to improve their skills.
  • Encourage them to do simple tasks, such as buttoning, picking up toys, and using the toilet, independently.
  • Read to them often.
  • Encourage them to have conversations with their siblings and friends.
  • Provide opportunities for play.
  • Take care of their health and diet.
  • Teach them the alphabet and the numbers.
  • Focus on developing their fine motor skills.
  • Let their kids explore things in a safe environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is kindergarten readiness important?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kindergarten readiness helps children adapt to school by developing classroom engagement skills, ensures better grades and school performance, and lowers school dropout rates. It has also been linked to healthier lifestyle choices and better social outcomes, such as lower poverty rates, substance abuse, and criminal behavior (7).

2. What is the difference between a kindergarten and a preschool?

Children as young as two years old can be admitted to a preschool, which encourages children to grow and prepare academically, socially, and emotionally for their future schooling. Children can enroll in kindergarten if they are 4-5 years or older or have completed preschool, and it usually comprises a full-day class (8).

3. Why is kindergarten called so?

The term kindergarten comprises two words – “kinder,” which means “children,” and “garten,” which means “garden.” It was coined by Friedrich Froebel in 1840 when he began the first kindergarten. His vision about children was that “Children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and require care, but each is beautiful on its own and glorious when seen in the community of peers” (9).

4. Can kindergarteners read?

Yes. Kindergartners can read simple words with definitions and in sentences (10).

5. What should I teach my kindergartener at home?

You can aid your kindergartener’s cognitive growth at home by incorporating various activities and games into everyday life. Making animal sounds, telling and recalling stories, recognizing numbers, counting, matching shapes, and lining things by size, and pretend play are fun ways to help them gain knowledge (11).

6. How do I handle a crying child in kindergarten?

Do not punish or attempt to reason with a child who is always crying in kindergarten. Instead, keep your cool, give them positive attention, distract them with toys or other activities, such as coloring, and compliment them once they have stopped crying.

Many new parents wonder about when do kids start kindergarten. Kindergarten usually begins between the ages of four to six years. However, more than the child’s age, their learning capabilities and other aspects of development also play an important role in deciding when you will be sending them to the kindergarten. Some schools may have a minimum cut-off age of five years for kindergarten. Every child is unique. If you think that your child is ready to go to the kindergarten, get them enrolled, and if you feel your little one needs some more time, do not push them.

Key Pointers

  • Kids usually start kindergarten around four to six years of age.
  • Parents must assess their children’s capacity to interact, respond to questions, follow directions, collaborate with peers, and be interested in books, sounds, and words before sending them to kindergarten.
  • Parents can help kids prepare for kindergarten by sending them for playdates, encouraging interaction with siblings or friends, and allowing them to explore their surroundings.

References

1. Table 1.3. Types of state and district requirements for kindergarten entrance and attendance, by state: 2020;State Education Practices (SEP) – National Center for Education Statistics 2020.
2. 50-State Comparison: State K-3 Policies; Education Commission of the States
3. Is your child ready for kindergarten?; The Brookings Institution
4. Is Your Child Ready to Start Kindergarten?; Cleveland Clinic
5. P. Gail Williams and Marc Alan Lerner; School Readiness; American Academy of Pediatrics (2019).
6. Is your child ready for big school?; Learning Potential – Australian Government
7. Caroline Fitzpatrick et al.; Kindergarten Readiness, Later Health, and Social Costs; Pediatrics (2020); AAP Publications
8. Preschool, Young 5s, or Kindergarten?; University of Michigan
9. Why is kindergarten called kindergarten?; Michigan State University
10. Reading Milestones; Connecticut Children’s
11. Supporting kindergarten readiness at home; University of Minnesota
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Dr. Rana Chanchal
Dr. Rana ChanchalMD, DCH, PGPN
Dr. Rana Chanchal is currently working as a senior consultant and head of the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology at Charak Hospital and Research Center, Lucknow. He has completed under graduation and post-graduation in Pediatrics from King George's Medical University, Lucknow following which he completed a two-year fellowship in Neonatology from Manchester, UK.

Read full bio of Dr. Rana Chanchal
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