The term “redshirting” was traditionally used to describe a college athlete sitting out a year of athletics to mature and grow stronger.
Now, the term has become a common way to describe enrolling your child late in kindergarten to provide them with extra time before starting elementary school.
Delaying kindergarten is not that common. Some parents consider it if their child has developmental delays or if their birthday is close to the school district’s kindergarten cutoff date. Generally, it’s up to the parent to make the decision about when their child enters kindergarten.
If you’re deciding if redshirting is right for your child, it’s important to weigh your child’s needs with the supposed benefits and negatives of holding them back a year.
Researchers have analyzed certain proposed benefits of redshirting a child, but there hasn’t been a randomized trial analyzing redshirting.
That means that the scientific results are limited and may not paint the full picture. Often, the most commonly redshirted children are white, male, and from a high socioeconomic status.
One study examined children in Denmark who typically enter kindergarten the year they turn 6. This is a year older than most American children, who tend to enroll the year they turn 5.
The researchers concluded that this later start in kindergarten reduced their inattention and hyperactivity at 7. This continued when they were surveyed again at 11. The researchers concluded that this delay improved a child’s mental health.
More research with a more diverse study group is needed to support these claims.
While studies are limited, here are some of the proposed benefits of redshirting:
- Giving your child an extra year to mature before entering school may help them succeed in formal schooling.
- Your child can get an extra year of “play” before entering elementary school. Many researchers have explored the importance of play, and several studies have looked at the connection between play and physical, social, and
cognitive developmentin children.
- If your child’s birthday is near your school’s cutoff, holding them back a year will help them to avoid being one of the youngest kids in their class.
There are also some possible drawbacks to redshirting:
- The academic advantage for your child may not last beyond the first few years of school.
- Your child may become frustrated with younger, less mature classmates.
- You may need to pay an extra year of tuition for private prekindergarten, or arrange another form of childcare, especially if you’re a single parent or in a dual income partnership.
- Your child will lose a potential year of income as an adult that could result in financial losses of up to $80,000.
One article by education experts uses these reasons to warn parents about holding their child back from kindergarten. They recommend only considering redshirting a child if the child has serious developmental delays, or are experiencing the loss or terminal illness of a close loved one.
Redshirting may also provide little to no benefits for your child if they don’t have access to a good prekindergarten school option or another form of enrichment during their redshirt year.
Redshirting is not very common, on average. In 2010, 87 percent of kindergarteners began on time and 6 percent were delayed. Another 6 percent repeated kindergarten and 1 percent entered kindergarten ahead of time.
You may live somewhere where redshirting is more common, or where it’s rarely done. Redshirting may be more common in certain areas or among certain communities or socioeconomic groups.
For example, the practice is more common among parents who have college degrees. They are 4 times more likely to give boys with a summer birthday an extra year than those parents who only have high school diplomas.
Many states have also changed kindergarten entry dates and introduced additional prekindergarten options for children.
For example, California changed the school cutoff age in 2010 and, at the same time, introduced a transitional kindergarten program to provide enrichment opportunities for children who missed the cutoff. These types of policy changes may be contributing to a decline in redshirting.
Once you’ve made a decision to delay kindergarten for a year, what’s next?
School districts and state requirements for kindergarten differ. Check with your child’s future elementary school to find out how to delay kindergarten by a year.
It may be as simple as not registering your child for the school year or withdrawing your child if you’ve already registered. Your school district may require more from you, so investigate how to do it in your district.
Figuring out what to do with your child with that extra year is another matter. You may be able to extend your child’s time at daycare or preschool, or it may be appropriate to seek a different schooling option for this extra year.
You may be looking for ways to help your child in their extra year before kindergarten. Here are some developmental skills and activities to focus on:
- Help your child learn letters, numbers, colors, and shapes.
- Read books aloud and encourage your child to interact with them.
- Sing rhyming songs and practice rhyming words.
- Schedule regular playdates and expose your child to their peers to enhance social skills.
- Take your child out into the world for broader experiences, like visiting the zoo, a children’s museum, and other places that capture their imagination.
- Enroll your child in supplemental classes like art, music, or science.
Make sure the extra year of prekindergarten for your child is enriching and rewarding. This will make it much easier to transition to kindergarten the following year, while also helping your child to get the most out of the extra year.
Carefully weigh the pros and cons, and consider your child’s unique needs before deciding to redshirt your child. Consider talking to parents of older children and your child’s pediatrician and teachers before making your decision. Also, check your local school requirements.
Another option is to enroll your child in kindergartner on time, but potentially keep your child in kindergartner a second year, if you decide that later on.
As a parent, you know your child best. With the right information and input, you can decide when to enroll your child in kindergarten.