Redshirting Your Kindergartner


I first heard the phase “redshirting your kindergartner” a few years ago while I was watching an episode of 60 Minutes. The story went into great detail on why parents did or did not choose to send their five-year-olds to kindergarten. Some parents who made the choice to hold their children back did it because they just felt like their child was not ready; others thought it might give their child an advantage in sports down the road. Parents who sent their young kindergartner often did so because they thought holding them back might actually do more harm than good, and some parents felt like, financially, they did not have a choice but to send them to school. I was intrigued by the story, as our oldest son has an August 1st birthday (Iowa’s kindergarten cutoff is September 15), and I knew this would be an issue we would be facing in the next several years.

Why I Have Thought about Holding Him Back

First Day of SchoolI have talked to many teachers and have always gotten the same advice: “You will never regret holding him back, but you might very well regret sending him.” These words have stuck with me while we have made the tough decision on how to proceed with his education next fall. Do I think that we could send our son to kindergarten and he would do fine – maybe even excel? Yes, I do. But I also know that he will benefit from an extra year to grow socially and emotionally. And, selfishly, I’m happy to keep him to myself for one more year before sending him out into the real world of school.

Why I Have Thought of Sending Him

My son currently attends preschool at our local school district. He goes four afternoons a week, and we have seen unbelievable changes in his academic skills, confidence, and behavior since he started preschool in the fall. Unfortunately, our district does not offer a transitional kindergarten; so if we do not send him, we have to find a private preschool program – and I worry about him being challenged enough and his behavior if he is not.

What We Decided

We decided that we would “redshirt our kindergartner.” Even though we feel like he would probably do great next year in kindergarten, we decided to wait one more year. We found a preschool program at a local church that is specially for older four- and five-year-olds and builds on the curriculum he used this year. After many, many months of debating on what road we should take, we finally feel at peace and know that we made the right decision for our son and our family.

Have you been faced with the same situation? What did you do?


  1. We are totally going to “red-shirt” our kids. We have a little boy who has an early August birthday and a daughter the following year has a birthday right on the cut-off date so even though they are only 1 & 2 now we have decided to hold them back a year and are completely ok with that. 😀 Thanks for the great blog!

  2. We are “redshirting” ours too…although I’ve never heard this term for this context, it does make sense. We are doing it b/c he’s a Sept birthday and we feel another year of preschool will be good for him. We too, are doing a local Church program. While we can’t afford it, we feel it’s what is best for our boy. Great article!

  3. I hadn’t heard this term before either but we did make the decision to “redshirt” our kindergartner. His birthday is 8/16 and we were on the fence until about a month prior to him starting in a Pre-K program. I didn’t realize what a difficult decision it would be until we had to sign him up for both Kindergarten and Pre-K programs just to get his name on the lists so we could have options as we neared a new school year.

    I was totally overwhelmed with feelings of fear that he wouldn’t succeed if we sent him to Kindergarten or that he would be bored and not gain anything from a Pre-K program. I know now that it was the best decision we could have made for him. He has gained so much confidence this year-academically, socially and emotionally. I know that this year in the Pre-K program has better prepared him for Kindergarten and that has put this mama’s mind and heart at ease with our decision 🙂 Great post! 🙂

    • Molly, thanks so much for your response. I love hearing from other parents who have been down the road already. The only thing I feel bad about is that they are now talking a ton about kindergarten at preschool and Drake keeps asking why he isn’t going next year with his friends. I’ve just been telling him he is not old enough yet. 🙂

  4. Katie,

    I love reading this. I think about this a lot as well.

    I’m curious if your son was after the cutoff if you would still hold him back a year?? My son is a December baby and he will be just shy of 6 when he starts Kindergarten. I know some parents would still hold a boy back for maturity reasons, and to let them develop a bit better since boys are usually slower in developing.

    Just curious of your thoughts.

    Also funny thing I see some responses times are 3:26 pm on 4/4 but it is only 10:46 am now 🙂

    • Amanda-
      I am guessing we probably would send him if he had a December birthday. I know we will send Charlie (March birthday) when he is five unless we have a very big reason not to. The way I figure it with Drake is that if we would send him this year he could have kids who were 14 months or so older than him. That is a BIG age difference at that age.

  5. It is a tuff decision we have had to make with both Amri (September 9th) and Thatcher (August 2nd). We sent Amri and will be sending Thatch this fall. We always waited to make that decision until it was time to sign up for kindergarten. It’s tuff, I just hope I’m doing what’s best for them.

  6. Katie,

    Jeff and I can completely relate to this. It has been making us crazy for the past 6 months. Caleb’s birthday is 6/26 and Wyatt’s is 5/31. We felt like what we do with one we have to do with the other. We visited the public preschools for 4 year old preschool and I was not impressed. It also left me with no plan for the year in between 4 year old preschool and kindergarton. We finally made the decision last week to send Caleb to Des Moines Christian for preschool. They have 2, 3, 4 and pre-k. He will start kindergarton when he is 6. I’m so relieved that we have a plan, finally! I had no idea having summer babies would be so stressful!

  7. I’ve experienced both sides. My 13 y.o. & 5 y.o. boys both have July birthdays. My 13 y.o. excelled academically & therefore we sent him at age 5. He did fabulous in school until around 5th grade. His peers were maturing much faster than he did & he struggled socially as well as emotionally. These struggles continued for approximately 2 very long years. He has since told me that he wishes we would have held him back.
    The decision regarding my 5 year old was an easy one. He attends a 5 year old preschool program, will turn 6 in July then off to kindergarten in August. He also excels academically & I now know from experience that he is able to take advanced classes, when he’s ready.

  8. My oldest’s birthday is 2 days after the cut off. I worked for a preschool program while I was pregnant so very aware of this debate since I was due the 21st. So when the 15th came and went and I was still pregnant I though oh good I don’t have to decide! We home school and so it isn’t as big of an issue I think he would have struggled going a year sooner though – he excels in math and so we do 1st grade math work books. It is so hard because what does 1 day mean you are ready or you aren’t to go to school – I know there has to be a date. I also thought I heard the term coming from parents who decide to red shirt their children so they are more mature for sports in high school and have an advantage in playing sports as they get older.

  9. I was very thankful for my teacher friend, Jessie, who basically told me what to do. Lucan’s birthday is early June so he would be a “young” kindergartner if we entered him when he’s five. Our plan is to do the informal preschool they have for three year-olds at daycare, free four year-old public preschool and then at five do a year of pre-K. If his teachers at that time think he’s ready for kindergarten, we’ll let them make that call and bump him up at that time. (According to my teacher friend this isn’t all that uncommon) But that’s our plan!

  10. Our son has a early February birthday, but I’m very nervous about him starting school in 2015. Hi social skills and speech are somewhat delayed. He’s making tremendous progress and I feel like he is very bright. He is also very tall for his age. My two older boys have summer birthdays and I started one at 6 and one at 5. I just knew one was ready and one was not. I truly feel like I should “redshirt” our third boy, but with his birthday being in February and his extraordinary height, I’m nervous about this decision.

  11. I think it also depends on birth order and gender. My second child was a girl with a 7/21 birthday. She went to kindergarten two weeks after she turned 5. She had never attended preschool and was very ready to go in part because she had an older brother. Academically she has always excelled. I agree with holding back late summer birthdays and even early fall. However there is a growing trend to hold back kids with spring birthdays. She is 10 in 5th grade and there will be many kids in her class that will turn 12 in early spring. That is a huge difference by 5th grade in many aspects of life outside of academics. It isn’t just a few kids who might have been struggling–it is probably one tenth of her class. I have always understood she would be one of the very youngest but 18 months to 2 years is a huge gap. We have even thought about accelerating her a grade level but didn’t think it was a good choice to put a 10 year old in 6th grade with 13-year-olds. The other side of the coin is that it is nearly impossible to have a child that is a few days past the deadline start technically a year early. It is not as simple to say a child’s birthday is 9/2–can they please start this year. The deadline is not nearly as fluid for kids that are ready to go. In the end, it is each family’s decision but each decision can have an effect on other kids especially in the higher elementary grades onward.

  12. When my son (now 14) was K age, it was easier to not have a decision to make–December birthday. He had speech therapy from age 3 to 9 and that extra year really helped him. He is now excelling in school. From where we were at age 5 or 6 to now, I would have never guessed how he would do. It is a hard parenting choice to make so we just went with the deadlines set in place by the district and filled in the gaps/made the decision work for each kid.


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