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The Best Age to Start Kindergarten (Written By a Kindergarten Teacher)
As the school year approaches, parents would like to know what is the best age to start kindergarten. A typical answer would be between 4 and 6 years of age. However, a minimum age does not always define a child’s readiness. Before you send younger children off to school for their first year, there are many factors to take into consideration.
Kindergarten teachers, like myself, can tell you age requirements, or a cutoff date, won’t define the success of your child within a school environment.
American children are typically spending their first year in a local school district, or school community, around the age of five and a half (NCES.ed.gov). But, let’s take a closer look at kindergarten readiness as a whole. For example, factors such as social skills, attention span, mental health, and is it part or full-day kindergarten.
Check Your State Guidelines for Age Cutoff for Kindergarten
After preschool graduation, or transitional kindergarten, you realized your child is very smart. Now you’re wondering if he or she is the right age to start kindergarten. As a mother of 2, and a former kindergarten teacher, I strongly believe it’s a good idea to talk about school readiness before sending them to a kindergarten classroom.
Are you friends with, do you have friends that know, a kindergarten teacher? Does your local school board have additional information on kindergarten programs on their website? The local schools, or head start, may have pamphlets to help you before school starts. Is there a FB group for parents in your local district? These are all great places to connect and communicate with other parents and professionals about your child’s readiness.
Did you know:
- 37 states in the US require children to fifth birthday on or before September 1.
- The remaining states either have an October 15 cutoff date, or allow local school districts to set their own dates.
- Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require that children attend kindergarten.
- Seventeen states and the District of Columbia require full-day kindergarten, and 39 states plus the District of Columbia require districts to offer kindergarten either full or half day.
Education Commission of the States Cut-Off Dates
The Education Commission of the States, located in Denver, Colorado, acts as a partner to state policy makers to research, report, and develop best practices.
Based on their data, I’ve put together a list of cutoff dates for the age to start kindergarten based on states.
- Alabama – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Alaska – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Arizona – Age 5 before September 1
- Arkansas – Age 5 before August 1
- California – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Colorado – Age 5 on or before October 1
- Connecticut – Age 5 on or before January
- Delaware – Age 5 on or before August 31
- District of Columbia – Age 5 on or before September 30
- Florida- Age 5 on or before September 1
- Georgia – Age 5 by September 1
- Hawaii – Age 5 on or before July 31
- Idaho – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Illinois – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Indiana – Age 5 on August 1
- Iowa – Age 5 by September 15
- Kansas – Age 5 on or before August 31
- Kentucky – Age 5 before August 1
- Louisiana – Age 5 by September 30
- Maine – Age 5 on or before October 15
- Maryland – Age 5 by September 1
- Massachusetts – Not specified in statute or regulations.
- Michigan – Age 5 by September 1
- Minnesota – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Mississippi – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Missouri – Age 5 before August 1. Metropolitan districts can establish a policy that a child must be 5 on or before any date between August 1 and October 1.
- Montana – Age 5 on or before September 10
- Nebraska – Age 5 on or before September 30
- Nevada – Age 5 on or before September 30
- New Hampshire – Not specified in statute or regulations.
- New Jersey – Districts may admit children aged 4 & 5, must admit children aged 5 to 6. The cutoff date must be after October 1.
- New Mexico – Age 5 on or before September 1
- New York – Districts shared that students must be between the ages of 4 and 6
- North Carolina – Age 5 on or before August 31
- North Dakota – Age 5 before August 1
- Ohio – Opt-in: Age 5 if a child is favorably evaluated for early admittance after referral from parent or guardian or qualified personnel. Opt-in: Age 5 if a child is enrolled in kindergarten in another district and transfers. Opt-out: Age 6, if a child is favorably evaluated for early admittance to grade 1 after referral from a parent or educator. f a student enrolls in school before the age of 6, he/she is subject to the compulsory attendance law. Opt-in: Prior to age 5 if a child is in accordance with model student acceleration policies developed by districts.
- Oklahoma – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Oregon – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Pennsylvania – District decision: between the age of 4 and 6. Minimum age for kindergarten entrance is 4 years 7 months before the first day of the school year
- Rhode Island – Age 5 on or before September 1
- South Carolina – Age 5 on or before September 1
- South Dakota – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Tennessee – Age 5 on or before August 15
- Texas – Age 5 on or before September 1
- Utah – Age 5 before September 2
- Vermont – Not specified in statute or regulation.
- Virginia – Age 5 on or before September 30
- Washington – Age 5 on or before August 31
- West Virginia – Age 5 prior to September 1. Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year districts must offer Pre-Kindergarten to all children who are age 4 before July 1.
- Wisconsin – 4-year-old Kindergarten: Age 4 on or before September 1. 5-year-old Kindergarten: Age 5 on or before September 1.
- Wyoming – Age 5 on or before September 15
Many districts have early-entrance screenings. These screenings are often administered with a school psychologist, guidance counselor, and/or classroom teachers. If the younger students have high test scores, they have the option to override the state kindergarten entrance age. This does not mean your child will be placed with gifted children. If they do decide to allow your child to start early, they will be placed in a regular classroom for the school calendar year. If your child doesn’t meet the cut-off date, and you feel he is more than ready, contact your local school district regarding early entrance requirements.
Research shows that the age of kindergarten entry is increasing on average (Hanover Research, 2015).
Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten
American Children living in the United States enter kindergarten on varied levels. To avoid behavioral problems, you will want to pay closer attention to their social emotional development.
- Do they obey rules? It’s developmental for children of this age to test their limits. However, if they consistently do not obey rules, you will need to take into consideration the instruction time that will be lost if the teacher has to repeatedly stop lessons to redirect your little one. This effects your child’s education, as well as the remaining students in the classroom.
- “Boys develop social skills later, and they may not show interest in focusing or learning letters. Another year before kindergarten could benefit them.” (Children’s Health Team, Cleveland Clinic, 2016)
- Are they able to be redirected? In kindergarten, teachers frequently redirect students to complete work or activities, attain focus, maintain safety, follow procedures, etc. When at home, if your child throws himself onto the floor, starts crying, and/or freezes up refusing to comply when you simply remind him to put away toys, or move to a different location, then it’s likely he is not quite ready for the transition.
Again, the social emotional and ability to follow directions is an important thing to evaluate before focusing on what age to start kindergarten.
PHYSICAL ABILITIES IN KINDERGARTEN
- “Preschool and kindergarten children need strong gross motor skills so they can engage in age-appropriate physical activities (such as running, climbing, and throwing) and so they can participate in classroom activities that require body control (such as walking in a crowded room or sitting still during a lesson)” (School Sparks)
- Fine motor skills – Are they able to cut with scissors? Can they grip and hold a pencil to make short and long writing strokes?
- Toileting – Are they able to use the bathroom independently – including wiping, buttoning or snapping pants, washing hands, etc.
Overall, there are many factors to take into consideration when deciding what age to start kindergarten. Along with chronological age, the “National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has determined that children equipped for early success typically demonstrate the ability to follow simple rules, dress independently, and recite the alphabet, among other abilities” (Hanover Research, 2015).
Ok, parents…set your bias aside, because we all have smart kids, and carefully consider the important factors, such as their birthday, social/emotional development, and physical abilities, before deciding if your child is ready for kindergarten registration.
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