How soon is too soon for Kindergarten? In recent years, parents have become increasingly concerned about what the best age is for a child to begin their formal education. Many organizations encourage children to start school as early as three, even arguing for more formal instruction in phonics and reading for preschoolers, especially for those in low-income communities.
A large study from 2006 in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis “concluded that there is no long-term advantage in delaying kindergarten, based on data from a cohort of eighth grade students who were followed for 12 years, until the age of 26.”
While the issue and research is complex, it appears many families wait and “redshirt” their children – opting for more play-based preschool programs and beginning kindergarten closer to six years of age. Research from a 2015 study “The Gift of Time – School Starting Age and Mental Health” showed “strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to better self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels when they do start school.”
Parents and childhood experts alike have continued to express concern about the early academic requirements happening in many preschools and kindergarteners. One report also found that requiring kindergartners to read too early may actually cause more harm long – term. The report notes that there is no research that documents long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten.
According to the same report, “Research shows greater gains from play-based programs than from preschools and kindergartens with a more academic focus. Children learn through playful, hands-on experiences with materials, the natural world, and engaging, caring adults. Active, play-based experiences in language-rich environments help children develop their ideas about symbols, oral language and the printed word — all vital components of reading.”
Each year many parents have the challenging task of deciding when to begin formal education. With so many opinions on the topic and variety of research that comes out every year, the decision is not an easy one. Every family, and every child, are different. Families may consider a variety of different factors when evaluating when to start their child in formal education. Whether a family chooses to begin at five, wait until seven, or some other time frame, families know what’s best for their child.