The Surprising Pros and Cons of Delaying Your Kid’s Kindergarten Start

Helicopter parenting aside, it’s your job as a parent to make smart decisions for your kid — especially when they’re young.

Many parents spend tons of resources and time deciding where to live so they can send their children to the best schools. But for some, the concerns aren’t just where — but when.

Children who have birthdays that coincide with the start of the school year (but before their state’s official cutoff date for kindergarten entrance) present a unique situation.

For instance, say school starts Aug. 10, your child’s birthday falls on Aug. 25, and the kindergarten cutoff date for your state is Sept. 1. Do you start your kid in kindergarten when they’re 4 but about to turn 5? Or do you wait until they’re 5 (the average starting age of a kindergartner in the U.S.) but on the cusp of turning 6?

If you do the latter and wait the additional year to enroll them in school, you are “redshirting” your kindergartner.

Recent articles and studies show there are pros and cons to both sides of this issue.

Why it’s Good to Wait a Year

For families obsessed with getting their kids into an Ivy League school, the headline of this recent article from Money — “Here’s Why the Oldest Kids in Kindergarten Are More Likely to Go to Harvard” — will have them all for redshirting.

The writer cited a new academic study that showed how a child who ends up being among the oldest of the bunch is more likely to graduate from a selective college.

With Ivy League grads reportedly pulling in top salaries, this creates a pretty persuasive argument for waiting an extra year to enroll your child in school. Your kid would potentially enter school having more knowledge and maturity than if they would have started a year sooner.

The research also showed the older kids were 15% less likely to end up getting arrested by their 16th birthday.

Yet, despite the advantages of waiting, some think it’s totally fine — and better even — to just start kids in kindergarten as soon as they’re eligible, even if that makes them among the youngest in class.

Reasons to Reject Redshirting

For some parents, enrolling their kids in kindergarten before they turn 5 makes the most sense financially. Day care is a major expense, and putting a kid in public school earlier than later could shave a year off of those costs.

For stay-at-home parents looking to get back into the workforce, starting their kid at 4 rather than 5 gives them an earlier jumpstart to getting back to work and earning a salary.

There’s also the social impacts redshirting could have on a child.

An article from Working Mother refers to a report on the subject. It claims that holding a child back a year will put them at the disadvantage of being socially, developmentally and emotionally more mature than their peers. They could also have challenges relating to their classmates.

The report pointed to a specific instance in which a redshirted child had challenges relating to his younger peers and developed behavioral issues.

Starting Kindergarten: A Subjective Decision

The arguments both for and against redshirting your kindergartner are pretty solid, but the choice is a pretty personal one that will vary from family to family.

For instance, a family that travels often (for a job, the military or personal reasons) may choose to wait that extra year. A family with a parent who has a terminal illness may also choose to keep their child at home longer.

On the other hand, parents may choose to send their child to school at 4 if their kid is already showing signs of being academically advanced and is experiencing boredom at home. A family with parents who struggle speaking English may want their youngster in school earlier to get a better grasp of the language.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to advocate for what’s right for your kid and best for your family.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She has a toddler whose birthday is just beyond the kindergarten cutoff date.