The doctor is in | Kindergarten

Should I send my young 5-year-old to kindergarten next year (having never gone to preschool because of COVID) or does it make more sense to wait until he is 6? (I’m concerned that at 6, he’s going to be bored with the school part. He may be bored at 5 even, but his social skills need work which is why he was going to go to preschool!)

The question of when to send your child to kindergarten has become a hot-button issue for parents. Some initial research found evidence that kids who are sent to kindergarten when they are young 6-year-olds perform better on kindergarten standardized tests on average, compared to kids who are sent as young 5-year-olds. However, other research found these differences in test scores get smaller over time and don’t seem to be present by the time kids get to third grade. Similarly, there is evidence that there are differences in social-behavioral skills when early-entry and delayed-entry kids are compared during the kindergarten year. However, these differences seem to decrease over time and there is evidence that they are no longer present by the end of middle school. 

Because there is not a clear answer to this question based on the research alone, I recommend that parents take some time to understand whether their child is ready for kindergarten based on their child’s individual abilities, interests, behavior and personality. Many states have kindergarten readiness checklists that can help parents determine whether their child is ready for kindergarten. Some examples of readiness indicators include: does your child have the ability to cooperate and play with other children, cooperate with adults and those in authority, use the restroom independently, hold and use a pencil, and name the letters in their first name?

Although your child’s age does matter when deciding whether to send them to kindergarten, it may be more important to consider your child’s readiness for school when making that decision.

— Kevin Triemstra, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist, Akron Children’s Hospital