should I put my 4 year old in kindergarten?

 

As we start the countdown to the end of the school year, I’ve been asked by many parents of children who are currently in pre-Kindergarten or preschool, if they should enrol their four-year-old in Kindergarten for the fall. Well here’s my some food for thought on this topic…

  1. An extra year will never hurt your child’s educational future.

If your child is a December or January baby, I often recommend to parents that they put their child in preschool or pre-Kindergarten and let their little one have an extra year of playing outside as much as they want, napping in the afternoons, exploring their own interests, and spending time with mom and dad.

IMG_6709.jpgThe following year when they are five and a half, they will be one year more mature, one year more independent, one year more mentally capable of handling the learning that takes place in Kindergarten. There is a lot of research that has been done that supports the opinion that the way that education is stressed upon children at a very young age, is hard for their little growing brains to handle. In other areas of the world, such as Sweden, children do not start Kindergarten until they are 7 years of age. (They also do a lot of other wonderful things, including paying for University, having extended maternity leave available with pay, and encouraging families to spend more time with one another. Here’s a great article on Inhabitots about Sweden’s education policies.).

2. Trust me, they will NOT be bored.

This really gets under my skin. School is not (or is very very rarely) boring. Especially Kindergarten, and even more so if it is a Reggio-inspired Kindergarten class. When parents tell me that their child is bored, or will be bored if they wait an extra year, I always say that this is very unlikely to happen. If it does happen it is usually because a child is unfocused, impatient, and is usually used to getting his/her own way.(Something they usually grow out of in another year’s time). I have taught a couple children (who, surprise surprise, were January babies!) who had said that they were bored, but these are the children in my room who struggled with staying focused when reading a story, had a short attention span and liked to move from one activity to another whenever their little heart desires, and if they do not get their way (“I don’t want to take my book back to the library! I want to play blocks!”) they usually can be found pouting on the carpet.

 

In Reggio-inspired Kindergarten programs, learning is based through play, invitations are set up that engage the children in learning outcomes and have been formed through the students own interests, and a large part of the day is usually spent outdoors in a similar learning environment.

So, no, they won’t be bored, even if they are five.

3. You know your child.

Even though you shouldn’t worry about boredom, you do know your child. My little Jude is rambunctious, intense, and loves being outside in nature for most of the day. Would he be ready for Kindergarten next year? Absolutely not!! Jude would not be ready to be told what to do in a classroom setting, so I feel fortunate that he is a March baby and will be five-and-a-half when he goes to Kindergarten.


However, I personally was put into Kindergarten when I was four and didn’t turn five until the middle of January. My mom and dad knew that I would not only be okay entering school at this age, but that I would be successful. This is what you really need to think about…Will my child be successful?

Please don’t consider the savings from your child not being in daycare for another year, or if they are hard to manage at home with a new baby or younger sibling/s. You need to take into account the personality and well-being of your child. This is not for my sake, but for theirs. Trust me, if they are not ready to leave their mom or dad, or struggle with focusing for at least 15-20 min. segments, they will find school hard. This struggle will not only be in Kindergarten, but can follow them as they move into the grades as well. My goal in Kindergarten is for the kids to love school. This is the feeling that you want school to bring, not stress from leaving mom, not fear or frustration. Think carefully about this before making your decision.

So if you’re still unsure, then there are a couple really great checklists that you can look at to see if your child is indeed ready for Kindergarten at four years of age.

I really like this one, but there are many many more that you can find on Pinterest too!

12 Comments

  1. Jana Scott Lindsay

    This is a beautifully honest post…

    If I may offer my 2 cents, I was a January baby and my parents asked what they should do from someone they considered to be a reliable source, my preschool teacher. She, so many years ago, said she thought I would be bored and encouraged my parents to put me in kindergarten. To this day it a a decision they completely regret.

    While fine academically, I was not socially. Small, shy, and reserved, I found it hard all throughout my years in school. That is not the purpose of school… and this I know having now been a teacher for two decades. Students must be ready, and that extra year makes all the difference.

    Faced with a similar situation, my husband and I decided not to enrol our oldest until she was well into be five. She too is a January baby and I can say, wholeheartedly it has made all the difference. She thrivess and excels in both school and activities and waiting the year, while it isn’t the golden ticket it was key.

    Learning is for a lifetime… there is not rush to finish.

  2. Suzanne

    Kael is a Feb. 4th baby and this was a bit of a debate but we held him back and I’m glad we did. He is now 13 years old and one of the oldest in his class. He is noticeably more mature than his class mates and is able to handle ‘situations’ in a mature manner. And let’s face it, he’s going to be the first one to get his drivers license 😉
    Personally, I think girls would have no problem entering Kindergarten at 4 as they mature a bit quicker than boys. Hold on to your boys for that extra year.

  3. Dani

    Yes, I see that the girls who leave my preschool at 4 are more mature than the boys, and can handle the classroom requirements of kindergarten. But they will be oftentimes a year younger than their male classmates. Which means in high school, at 14, they will have 18 and 19 year old boys pressuring them for sex. And drinking and drugs. This is todays reality. What you decide to do with your baby will impact them at a later date. Boys do better when they are older for maturity and sports. Girls do better for the same reason. I entered high school early and it was overwhelming. I’m so glad my children were in a better space. Even 6 months makes all the difference to their confidence.

    • Such an insightful response! Two of my children had late birthdays (October and August) . They started at 4 and barely 5. We later realized that we had made a mistake and in changing schools we realigned there age group. As a high school senior, my son said, “Mom. I can’t even imaging being in college now.” And my daughter saved her friend’s life in high school when she blacked out after too much drinking and would have died if she hadn’t been rushed to a hospital…which my daughter’s cool head was able to do. I don’t see any down side to waiting, but as a former k teacher who now sees what many k’s are like, I can see a sliding future of problems entering too early.

  4. Reep

    What about a boy with a January birthday who is already in pre-K and just turned 5. So, he would begin kindergarten at 5.5. Would you ever recommend a child this old do a 2nd year of pre-K?

    • mbe543@mail.usask.ca

      Not here in Saskatchewan. He would have to be moved on to the next grade. They don’t encourage that in our school system as then the kids are much older than their peers. However, depending on where you are, maybe this is an option for you. I would only recommend this if there are developmental delays, or a diagnosis that affects the child’s ability to learn, and the child would benefit from an extra year to learn routines and life skills.

      That’s a great question! It’s so hard as a parent to know what’s the right decision.

  5. Angie

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts based on experience and research. It has given me a lot to think about. My daughter turns five on September 26. I assumed I’d be sending her to kindergarten this school year 2016-2017. She is bright and has a long attention span. Her language development has always been advanced. I do wonder though about the social emotional aspect. She interacts with the other kids, but is often not the lead in the play with peers. She is a bit on the quiet side. The Playschool teacher mentions she doesn’t speak up if she is wanting a particular part for art that is out of reach. She would rather just wait for someone to notice. Her initiation is a bit lacking. I have always found her a bit behind the students who are even born in May. Quite a significant difference.

    I wonder if having her stay in Playschool another year would help. I would love to hear your thoughts. I just wonder if another year would make a difference or if that is her personality. Just quieter.

    Thank you.

    • mbe543@mail.usask.ca

      Another year means another year of learning about the world, growing confidence and maturing. I would look at who she likes to play with. Does she gravitate to the older children who are entering kindergarten, or does she play with the other 4 year olds? If she seems to be more confident around 4 year olds, then I would say to send her next year. It’s always better for them to need a challenge rather than to struggle.
      Then, even later in life, high school, university, she will be a year younger. A year younger then her friends who are driving, drinking, getting a job. It’s such a hard call. As a child who was out in early, I don’t regret my parents decision at all, but there were times (when I was a teenager) when I realized the age difference.
      However, with all this being said, you know your child. We have such hard decisions as parents, and I will also be making this choice for my own daughter.
      If you’re still unsure, ask to spend the day in preschool and observe her with her peers and how she interacts. It will give you a better understanding of her strengths and confidence at school.
      Hope that helps! Good luck

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    • mbe543@mail.usask.ca

      I would check your local school division website to see what the requirements for Kindergarten, including age, may be. Thanks for reading

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