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Kindergarten and Summer Birthdays: Should You Wait a Year?


When looking for a photo to go with this post, my son has his tongue sticking out in each one. Can you imagine if we didn’t wait a year? 🙂

March is here, and for my school district, that means it’s time for kindergarten registration. For those of you with children born January – May, you’re probably excited, looking forward to rushing in your school’s office and throwing those registration papers on the desk. However, if your child was born in the summer or fall, you may look at this time with dread, asking yourself, “Is my child ready?” For my son, who was born in October, I thought it was a slam dunk–we’d wait a year. But when that registration date approached, I started questioning our decision–are we doing the right thing? Turns out we did wait, and YES, we did the right thing. I’ve never regretted our choice once. But for those of you who are still struggling to decide, here’s a new study that shows you may want to wait a year. Published by Dr. Francis Huang in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology,“Further Understanding Factors Associated with Grade Retention: Birthday Effects and Socioemotional Skills,” found that young-for-grade kindergarteners are held back five times more often than other kindergarteners. Breezy Mama asks Dr. Huang for the inside scoop. . .

 If my child’s birthday is close to cut-off date, should I take into consideration that other children in the class may be a year older? Will this create a viscous cycle of kids being older and older when starting kindergarten? If so, does this matter?

There will always be a youngest and an oldest child in the classroom—on the first day of kindergarten, there will be a child who just turned five, and a child who is 5 years 11 months older. How well the child does in the classroom is largely dependent on the ability of the teacher to work with children of different age groups and being able to differentiate instruction based on the child’s needs.

If kids the youngest children are held back, you are right that this creates a vicious cycle of holding children back (also known as ‘academic redshirting’- a topic of another ongoing study ). The major problem with doing this is that the ones who can afford to hold children back tend to be White boys from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. Older children also tend to do better as well academically. If this continues, an age-based achievement gap may turn out to be more of an income-based achievement gap later on. Some parents may see this as giving their children an ‘academic advantage’ but holding children back complicates the situation in the classroom if a teacher has to work with children of even wider age disparities.

 If my child is sent to kindergarten, but shows signs that she may be falling behind, what can we do to help?

While age is one factor, academic abilities still play a large role in retention. An area that shows potential as well, as much as academic ability, is the child’s attentiveness, task persistence, and eagerness to learn. These are actually teachable skills and are largely related to a child’s self regulatory skills. Some earlier studies have shown activities such as specialized computerized programs, martial arts, or even yoga may help.

Many parents take a child’s physical attributes into consideration when trying to decide if they should wait a year for kindergarten. (If their child is on the smaller side, they tend to wait.) And then, I noticed that in your study, you saw that children who were taller were less likely to repeat kindergarten. Why do you think this is?

I really wanted to investigate a child’s maturity and their likelihood of being retained. Two ‘types’ of maturity may be manifested physically (height, fine motor skills) and socioemotionally (how ‘behaved’ the child is, how attentive, how easily a child gets along with others, etc.). Both the socioemotional and physical aspects do wind up playing a role in retention decisions.


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Huang, FrancisAbout Dr. Franics Huang:
Francis Huang earned his doctorate in educational research, statistics and evaluation from the University of Virginia. Currently, he is an assistant professor in the University of Missouri College of Education. To read more about the study, click here.

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  1. My son was born at the end of August and we did send him to Kindergarten at just 5 years old. He was tall and very bright, but we finally decided to give him an extra year in second grade. Socially and emotionally, he was less mature than his classmates. It was a great decision for us, and one we have never regretted. As a teacher myself, I often suggest an extra year for kids who are young for grade, but it doesn’t have to be before Kindergarten.


  1. […] Deciding whether to delay kindergarten for your summer birthday kid — Breezy Mama […]

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