Are there benefits to delaying a child's enrollment in kindergarten?

Some parents choose to delay a child's entrance into kindergarten, believing that a child can gain an advantage in academics, athletics or social settings by being older than average for his or her grade. This is also common among boys who have birthdays near the cutoff date — with parents believing their child needs more time to mature.

However, research suggests that children who are old enough for kindergarten but postpone enrollment for one year don't perform any better than children who enter at the usual age — particularly if the child remains in an environment where readiness wasn't being fostered. In addition, other studies show that a child who is old for his or her grade is at higher risk of behavior problems during adolescence.

What can I do to help my child succeed in kindergarten?

You can take many steps to help your child prepare for kindergarten. For example:

  • Keep your child healthy. Ensure that your child eats healthy foods, gets plenty of sleep and visits the doctor on a regular basis. Before the start of kindergarten, make sure your child has had a recent physical exam and is up to date on immunizations.
  • Develop routines. Choose regular times for your child to eat, play and sleep each day. This will help your child know what to expect and what's expected from him or her.
  • Encourage the development of basic skills. Work with your child to help him or her recognize letters, numbers, colors and shapes.
  • Read, rhyme and play games with your child. Make reading a daily family activity. Rhyming and playing with your child also are important for his or her development.
  • Expose your child to learning experiences. Look for opportunities to broaden your child's horizons, such as preschool. Take your child to the museum or enroll him or her in community art or science programs.
  • Encourage socialization. Promote your child's social development by signing him or her up for group activities and inviting friends to go on outings. Encourage your child to share, express his or her feelings, practice taking turns, and follow simple directions.
  • Talk about kindergarten. Build enthusiasm and lessen anxiety by explaining what your child's routine might be like in kindergarten. Before school begins, take him or her to the school and, if possible, check out the classroom. Get your child involved in shopping for school clothes.
Aug. 23, 2013 See more In-depth