If your preschooler has a summer birthday, you might be considering holding them back from kindergarten until they’re a little more mature.
It’s a trend known as “redshirting,” and yes, the term is borrowed from the sports practice of sitting out high school and college athletes for a year so they can become more competitive thanks to 12 months’ worth of growth and maturity.
The concept is the same for your child. More and more, parents are choosing to delay entry to kindergarten — especially with boys, who sometimes don’t mature as fast as girls — because they’re concerned about their child’s readiness for school.
So how do you know if it’s a smart move for your preschooler? The answer varies from one child to the next, but understanding the benefits and drawbacks can help you make the best decision for yours.
The Advantages of a Delayed Start
The advantages of redshirting a child seem obvious. An older child will not only be bigger and more mature, they’ll be more likely to behave better because they’ve had more time to perfect skills like sharing, listening, and taking turns.
They’ll also have more developed fine motor skills. Things like coloring, using scissors and glue, and even holding a pencil won’t be as tricky. Kindergarteners are also usually expected to take care of things like hanging up their coats and backpacks, zipping jackets and sweaters, and even tying their own shoes. And all of that will be easier for an older child.
But are these advantages really beneficial over the long run? And what about academically?
The Drawbacks to Starting Late
Waiting a full year to begin your child’s education can mean delaying their access to an intellectually enriching experience. It can also hide certain issues. What you think is immaturity may actually be a learning disability or another special need that would be easily identified in a classroom setting. Waiting a year means delaying that information, and an entire year when you could have been treating it.
While being bigger and older might be a good thing in kindergarten, it can be hard on kids in higher grades, especially when puberty hits. Kids don’t like to feel different than their peers, and a year’s difference can be very noticeable.
The academic advantage is also questionable. Many researchers point to studies comparing redshirted kids to their grade-level peers, which show that they end up about even by the third grade. And actually, it can be an academic advantage to a younger child to be surrounded by more mature classmates, with a positive impact on behavior.
Signs of Kindergarten Readiness
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of redshirting, there are signs that can help you decide whether or not your child is ready for kindergarten. Does your child do any of the following?
- show excitement and enthusiasm for learning
- speak clearly
- listen well and follow instructions
- show independence
- play nicely with others most of the time
- show a willingness to be apart from you or your partner
Children who show all of these traits are very likely ready for success in kindergarten. You should also take advantage of kindergarten screening tests offered in your district. And be open to testing your child more than once.
Children can make great strides in just a few short months, and a child who wasn’t ready in the early spring may surprise you come summertime.
Other Things to Consider
It’s important to think about redshirting from a few different angles. The following are questions you should consider.
- Will you be able to afford another year of preschool or child care if you decide to delay kindergarten?
- Will it have an impact on another child in your family, especially if your children are only a year apart, and redshirting means they’d be in the same grade?
- Will you be comfortable with your child being an early driver?
- Will you be comfortable with your child being almost out of their teens while they’re still in high school?
- And finally, if the decision to delay entry turns out to be a bad idea, how easily can you arrange to have a grade skipped?
There are many factors to consider if you’re debating redshirting your child. Your best bet is to consider your child carefully.
Speak with the preschool teachers, and ask specifically about your child’s strong and weak points. Arrange to speak with the new kindergarten teacher as well to learn about what’s expected of incoming kindergarten students and what you can do to help prepare your child. See if you can sit in to observe the class dynamic, and imagine your child in that setting.
The decision to delay kindergarten can make you feel anxious, but don’t project your feelings onto your child. Be confident and excited when you share the news with your child, and they’ll likely be completely on board with whatever you decide.
Jessica has been a writer and editor for over 10 years. Following the birth of her first son, she left her advertising job to begin freelancing. Today, she writes, edits, and consults for a great group of steady and growing clients as a work-from-home mom of four, squeezing in a side gig as a fitness co-director for a martial arts academy. Between her busy home life and mix of clients from varied industries like standup paddleboarding, energy bars, industrial real estate, and more, Jessica never gets bored.