Controversy #2: “Redshirting” Kindergarteners

This is a two-part article series on “Controversies in Kindergarten.” Part I focused on “Early Entry to Kindergarten.” Part II focuses on the trend of “redshirting” kindergarteners.

Many parents have never heard of the term “Redshirting” unless they are sports fans. Because I do NOT follow sports that often, I’ll explain simply that redshirting is a concept taken from college sports, where athletes will practice with the team for the first year but sit out competition while they get bigger, stronger, and more competitive. In the world of competitive parenting, redshirting is a growing trend in which parents “hold back” their child from starting kindergarten at age five, and give them an extra year to get tougher, bigger, and smarter. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that academic redshirting occurs at the rate of about 9% per year among kindergarten-age children (West, Meek, & Hurst, 2000). The practice of parents waiting until their children are six to enroll them in kindergarten has become so widespread that CBS’ 60 Minutes has recently aired a segment on this controversial topic.  For a link to the CBS’ 60 Minutes: “Redshirting: Holding kids back from kindergarten,” go here.

This trend is especially popular among parents of boys. With a generation of parents who were spoon feeding their infants organic baby food while playing Baby Einstein videos set to classical music in a black and white room, redshirting is another avenue for the hypercompetitive parent. Redshirting is possibly as controversial and emotional as the process of “early entry” to kindergarten (see article on Controversy #1: Early Entry to Kindergarten). On the “pro” side, parents believe this practice of redshirting is simply giving their child every advantage to succeed academically, socially, and athletically – “leveling the playing field” so to speak. For parents who are “against” redshirting, they believe parents are actually setting up an imbalanced and unfair playing field for the other kids who are age appropriate for their grade. They believe before their children even start school, they are setting up a competition with other students. What does research say about which camp of parents is correct? Unfortunately, the studies on this practice provide us with mixed results thus far. We do know that in general, advanced kids tend to “level out” as they reach third grade. There are also some studies pointing to later emotional and behavioral problems in children who were redshirted.

Because the research is inconclusive about the effects of redshirting and few school districts prohibit it, parents are usually the ones who have to decide whether to keep their child out of kindergarten for an extra year. The following are some points for parents to consider in making a decision:

  • Try to be realistic about your child’s social, emotional, and academic skills as when determining his or her “readiness” for kindergarten. In other words, don’t delay entrance into kindergarten just because the child is likely to be among the youngest in the class or has a summer birthday.
  • Get a second opinion: Ask your child’s preschool teacher, Sunday School teacher, soccer coach, or pediatrician about their thoughts about your child’s readiness for kindergarten.
  • If you want a more thorough assessment of your child’s readiness, many child psychologists will offer a brief “screening” to assess your child’s emotional, social, behavioral, and academic skills. The psychologist can then provide you feedback about the advantages and disadvantages of redshirting your child.
  • Ask about your school’s kindergarten readiness screening procedures or tests to get an idea of how your child might fare in the kindergarten classroom in which she or he will most likely be placed.
  • Consider what else your child will be doing if she did not start kindergarten? Will she continue in a preschool program with much younger children? Will he remain at home and have access to social interactions with same-age peers?
  • Assess your child’s learning “window.” Is he or she excited about starting “big school” and bored with the “same old, same old” of preschool?

No matter when your child starts kindergarten, it’s a new beginning for him or her—and for you. It’s important for parents to project a positive and calm manner when discussing kindergarten with or around their child. There are many ways parents can prepare their child for kindergarten success: 1) Ensure your child has time every day to PLAY! Research shows that play actually leads to improved academic skills. Play, which is really a child’s ‘work,’ contributes to cognitive, physical, social, and emotional growth. 2) Plan to have your child visit the school and meet his or teacher before the first day of school. 3) Talk to your child about the routine in kindergarten and give him or her a schedule using pictures or words, depending on your child’s reading level. Most importantly, remind yourself to cherish the memories of walking your little tyke into school with an oversized back pack on, whenever that big day arrives!


Dr. Kristen Wynns is the owner/founder of Wynns Family Psychology, a specialty child/adolescent practice in Cary, NC providing therapy, testing, and custody services for children and teens.  ( She is also the founder and creator of “No Wimpy Parenting” SM. is a resource for parents who want to take their power back.  Articles, videos and podcasts, blogs, and a Q/A section for parents provide tips for parents to gain more confidence and competence as parents.  Dr. Wynns also offers phone, Skype, or face to face consultations to provide your family with individualized and customized recommendations and feedback.  Visit or call (919) 805-0182 for more information.

One Response to “Controversy #2: “Redshirting” Kindergarteners”

  1. granddad Says:

    Great. All parents should read and act.

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