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When to Start Kindergarten for Summer Birthdays

When to Start Kindergarten for Summer Birthdays on


They are calling it “redshirting”: the choice a parent makes to hold their child with a summer birthday and start them the next year.  This piece on 60 Minutes makes it out to sound like parents are obsessed with getting their child the “advantage”.  Check it out:

I have a son with a summer birthday and I started him late.  Here are the factors that influenced my decision:

  • Age of boys in our neighborhood that he played with (there was no one nearby that would have been in the same grade as him, yet there were several boys right in our neighborhood who would have been in the younger grade. They all had fall birthdays – so he was actually closer in age with them as opposed to his counterparts in the older grade).
  • Age range he related to better (I noticed a distinct difference between the social level he was on, and the level his cousin who was 9 months older and in the older grade)
  • Every teacher I asked said “I can always tell the boys in my class with summer birthdays, I’d hold him”
  • Trusting my gut

My son is not big, nor is he small.  He looks like an average 3rd grader even though he is the oldest in the class. I think academically he would have done just as well in either grade. I could care less about how this affects him in sports, as a matter of fact, it generally has no effect at all to this point. He would have still been on all of the same teams he is on now based on his birthday.

My decision was based on what seemed to make the most sense for him, both socially and emotionally.  I don’t think it’s stacking the system or a reflection of obsessive parents to hold your child and to try to do what you feel is the best fit for your child.  Whether you home school, enroll in an open classroom, or private education, every parent has the right to do what they think is best for their child. Considering the state of our educational system, we owe parents at least that.

What do you think? Do you have a child with a summer birthday? How have you, or will you, handle when to start kindergarten registration?

 Editors Update

I wrote this post almost 3 years ago! My son is now in 6th grade and we are staring Jr. High in the face next fall! I’m still SO glad that we started him late as we watch all of the kids mature at such different rates. He’s definitely in the right place.

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Comments (33)

  1. Mistie 06/10/2015 at 10:42 am

    My son was a November baby, he went to kinder when he was 4, he did great academically, socially, but was very sensitive and stressed out, he would cry if he didn’t get his work perfect. We thought perhaps it was to much stress on him so we had him do another year at a new school. Fast forward to now, he is totally bored, upset that he is not learning more. Guess what he is still really sensitive. It wasn’t anything time was going to change. Emotionally he connects with older children. He desperately wants to be an the older grade with his friends. He is a leader in the classroom and a follower socially. I would rather him follow more mature kids who make good decisions than immature younger kids. We all just do the best we can, but some times those social cues are their personality and is not going to change no matter how much time you give them.

  2. laura 04/23/2015 at 6:48 am

    Well Said! A friend of mine repeatedly told me, “It is no one’s business why you held your son back.” No regrets! laura

  3. Melissa 08/26/2013 at 10:47 pm

    I think parents need to stop thinking short term and start thinking about the future. Can you imagine being 19 in high school? I know the minute I turned 18 I went to the school and change the phone number, address, everything because I could. I was a legal adult. I couldn’t imagine a child turning 18 the summer before their JR. year and having that battle for 2 years. It’s not like you can kick a kid in high school out of your house and expect them to make it on their own, This short term thinking is ridiculous.

    • Sara 12/27/2014 at 7:54 am

      Children who start kindergarten after their 6th birthday would be turning 19 AFTER their senior year. They would be turning 18 the summer before their senior year. Which doesn’t seem as drastic as you think. Do the math.

  4. Shandra 08/26/2013 at 5:48 pm

    My son’s birthday IS the cutoff date. Socially, at the time, I thought he could use another year, while academically, he would have been bored stuff to wait another year. As it turns out, he’s on the edge of the autism spectrum and that’s why he’s behind socially. Holding him the extra year wouldn’t have helped him socially, but it would have been detrimental academically. As it is, he HATES the beginning of the school year, not only because it forced him to socialize, but because the rest of the class has to review and he still remembers everything. We put him in a language immersion program last year and I think it’s the best decision we could have made for him. It’s kids who were all considered gifted but had nothing to challenge them without a gifted program in the local elementaries. He now has more friends and enjoys school more (after the first weeks’ review that is!) than he would have I we’d left him with his age group. For him, it was the right choice. But it’s an individual choice. I would never recommend skipping kindergarten personally, having seen what it’s done to children I know who don’t learn socialization, but again, I’m not going to judge a parent for making a choice they feel is best for their child!

  5. Mimi 03/15/2013 at 11:35 am

    I am always shocked when people state that “every child could use the gift of time” and “no one ever regretted waiting a year.” That is absolutely false. I was a September birthday (missed the cut off by a week) and went late. It was VERY unfortunate for me as I was NEVER challenged in school and did not have to learn to STUDY until college. Waiting a year so that kindergarten will be “easier”, when a child is ready, causes more harm than good. I want my children to be challenged in school.

  6. Eydie 03/12/2013 at 8:08 pm

    Our oldest son (now 30) missed the cut off date by 5 days. When I mentioned this to his pediatrician he said it was a good thing. Keep him home another year and don’t rush him. He was almost always the oldest in the class and did wonderful! On the other hand, I worked in a kindergarten class for a number of years and mostly saw kids who were too young but their parents wanted them out of the house. We dealt with a lot of crying that lasted all year. I would recommend keeping them home for another year to everyone!

  7. Donna 03/12/2013 at 7:56 pm

    When my oldest was ready to start school we had moved to another state. The cut off date here was 1 October, the cut off date there was 15 September. So they would not let him start. It was a huge mistake for him. When he got to first grade the kids in his Sunday school class, some of which were merely a few days or week older were in second grade. They put him in a joint 1st and 2nd grade class. They were insufferable! He was taller and he was a great deal smarter. In high school he did his junior and senior year in one year and graduated when he would have, had he been living here when it was time to start school. His brother was an August birthday and started in August when he turned 5. Later he had to grade skip, then he too did his junior and senior year in one year and graduated at 15.

    At the time my boys were starting school studies had been done about boys and start dates. They were advising not to red shirt. Among those red shirted were the higher drop out rate. It makes them bigger in class, more likely to be made fun of and called slow. While a fair amount of boys were not ready for school when kindergarten arrived, most were ready by first grade. So they advised holding them out of kindergarten and then putting them in a summer kindergarten right before first grade. My other five were home schooled so I could do what was developmentally appropriate for them.

  8. Heather 03/20/2012 at 1:29 pm

    I have a little boy with a summer birthday and I will definitely be holding him back, for all the reasons you listed. If something changes quite a bit before then, I’ll reconsider. My husband had a summer birthday and was the youngest growing up and HATED it. Unless he is really, really ready I’m waiting.

  9. Elise Johannes 03/19/2012 at 3:54 pm

    The term “red shirting” has such negative connotation from the get go. What troubled me most about the 60-minutes segment is it added more fuel to the fire. It was one perspective only mostly from giving in particular boys, a leg up on the competition for sports and possible academics. No where in the interviews was the perspective from a teacher or a child development specialist taken into account.

    Giving children, boys or girls with late spring, summer or fall birthdays the gift of time is just that. A gift of time. To gain some confidence and resiliency to face challenges when they arise. The magic of this year for those who developmentally need the bolstering is not seen until later educational career; sometimes as early as 3rd grade when reading is no longer predictable and comprehension is key or as late as middle school. For once a child starts Kindergarten they are at the starting block of a 17 year school career (that’s saying they will finish University in four-years). California is one of the last states in the US that is finally changing the Kindergarten entry date from Dec 1 to Sept 1. It is about time. As a teacher I have never had a parent say they wish they didn’t do the Jr Kindergarten year but have always heard the exact opposite when the child is in middle school. As a parent I thought that my child would be ready for Kindergarten with an early summer birthday she was not and seeing how confident she is, with the tiger by the tail, willing to take risks in her education, taking the initiative to take her learning to the next place without prompting but self-initiating is absolutely PRICELESS.

  10. Lindsay 03/19/2012 at 2:02 pm

    I have to say that for me, I started my son when he was supposed to. His birthday is August 2nd. Last year was so challenging for the whole family. His teacher has a behavior mark at the end of each day; happy, uh-oh, and grumpy face; which he received a lot of grumpy faces. I decided to let him try again this year and what a difference. We don’t get notes home, don’t have problems with completing homework, etc. He did have 2 years of pre-school so the problem was not that he couldn’t handle the curriculum. The problem was that boys definitely take longer to mature and I feel it will give him an advantage when he is older due to the fact he won’t have to wait all year to have the same things his friends do. It is absolutely your own choice but in my situation it was teacher recommended and I trust them because they are the ones who deal with these situations on a day to day basis. Go with your gut and do what you think is right.

  11. Tracey P. 03/19/2012 at 1:52 pm

    This is very concerning to me. I have two boys with July birthdays. I think most parents will say that their child could use more time to mature, but is this really the issue? It is the rare preschooler who behaves so wonderfully that we think they are mature. What exactly are we expecting of Kindergarteners these days?? Think of the ramifications is 50-80% of parents hold them back. Here are the possibilities….the curriculum will be dumbed down even more as the kids are older and older in the classes. As they get into higher grades and the “advantage” lessens (there is research to support this – you can see that most parents claim that it’s for emotional and social issues, but as kids get older, there is not as much of a disparity so now the kids are just behind academically), the students will be older….and less-educated. Also, as previous poster mentioned, this is also a class issue. The well-advantaged kids in higher socio-economic brackets will get the advantage and the less well-to-do kids will be the young ones struggling to keep up. They are already at a disadvantage according to research in many areas(such as the study on books in the home and the effect on language development). If kids are not socially ready for Kindergarten, then maybe something is wrong with the K-level curriculum rather than our kids. My son’s preschool teacher thinks I should hold him back because the other kids moving on are so much older than him. I think it stinks that I feel pressured to hold my son back not because he needs it, but because I don’t want him to be the youngest in the class, because FOUR KIDS OLDER than him are redshirting. He will be bored to tears if I do so, but because of this horrible trend, he could face a tough time socially. So I guess I’m kind of ticked off that parents are holding their kids back (and if you believe it’s always for “more social development” that’s total C–P. Don’t tell me that they aren’t also hoping for an academic boost) and it’s hurting my son, who is wonderfully academically and right on track socially for his age….but his classmates are no longer going to be the same age because everyone else is red-shirting!

  12. Beth 03/19/2012 at 1:16 pm

    We have a 13 year old son with a July birthday. As our firstborn, we really didn’t “get the memo” that so many people “withheld” their children (the term in our area) — so we went ahead and sent him. Much to our surprise, he was the youngest boy in his Kindergarten class, and that was with a December 1st cutoff! I honestly felt kind of tricked by this whole trend (which I really didn’t know about until it was too late).

    Fast forward… to 8th grade. Our son would certainly have done better in many ways if he had waited. He has had to work hard to keep up physically and academically. BUT, I truly believe that his strong work ethic and his ability to deal with some adversity has served him very very well. I do see that there are older kids in his grade who are bored and are acting out — and who don’t really know what striving feels like.

    My daughter, who has a January birthday, is much less familiar than her brother is with the idea of working hard in school. She tends to throw in the towel much sooner than her brother does when a challenge arises.

    I can’t turn back time — and if I could, I might have had our son wait — but, I take great comfort in seeing the incredible qualities he is developing as a person. He is a hard worker. He knows how to handle disappointment. He knows what it feels like to have success as a result of applying himself. He is handling it, and we’re proud of him for that!

  13. Shawnette Page 03/19/2012 at 1:10 pm

    We have a daughter with a summer birthday and a son who is Aug 12. After watching the struggles our daughter had once she reached 2/3 grade we did not hesitate to hold our son back. He was not nearly as ready for Kindergarten as she had been. We have not regretted our decision at all. We also asked everyone of those questions and we kept coming back to the same answer. Our daughter is now in 9th grade and still struggling were as our son is thriving and academically sound. I would make the same choice again, but I do feel it is on a case by case basis. Each child is so different that what is good for one is not good for another. We did not think of it as giving him an advantage over other kids, we thought it was what was best for him.

  14. jenna 03/19/2012 at 12:47 pm

    i have no issue with summer birthdays being held back – but it’s the ones with spring and winter birthdays who are held back that freak me out. means my “youngish” kids who have late summer/early fall birthdays will sometimes be 18 months younger than others – b/c their parents chose to hold them with their february birthdays back. my daughter is in kindergarten – with an early august birthday – and is going to birthday parties in nov, dec and jan where the classmate is turning 7. not a huge deal in kindergarten – but when she is 14 in the 9th grade – and there are boys in her class who are 16 – it starts to worry me. i wish there was a limit on how early their birthdays are as well as how late…

  15. Dee 03/19/2012 at 12:43 pm

    My son’s birthday is in February, so a summer birthday was never at issue. He went to Kindy at 5 like most, but if I had it to do over, I’d’ve waited. His pre-school had a “big guys” class for parents who were waiting and I totally think he could have used the extra maturity. He is very immature for his age, partially an a effect of his ADHD. While ADHD doesn’t impact intelligence, it does impact maturity. At this point, however, holding him back would really beat up on his self esteem, even though many of his friends are a year behind him. Many boys (not all) need more time.

  16. meghan 03/19/2012 at 12:09 pm

    My little guy is born Aug 16th. He started Kindergarten 3 weeks later.
    While he can do the work & seems to be on the same maturation level as the other kids, he is/was a distraction & behaviorial issue.
    This past week, he was diagnosed as being ADD.
    Would I hold him back if I could do it again?
    Learning wise, he is on target if not above.
    He has grown leaps & bounds as for maturity as well.
    It’s really just a personal decision.

  17. Carina 03/13/2012 at 9:18 pm

    I’m not going to judge if people do or don’t red shirt…

    …but I will say that it’s ironic that the kids who have the most advantages in the world get red shirted and the kids who could truly use an extra year to prepare will be starting Kindergarten anyway to help their families save on the cost of child care.

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  19. Erica Fehrman 03/13/2012 at 8:10 am

    My younger son has a July birthday, so this will be our question in the next two years, as well. I’d like him to go on into kindergarten to keep him closer in grade to his older brother, but ultimately the decision will be made on criteria like yours. As for the news…I think the media always gravitates toward extreme opinions and then uses those to make blanket statements. There are crazy parents and sane parents, and the crazy ones make for a better “story.”

  20. Melissa 03/12/2012 at 5:15 pm

    My two and a half year old son was born in July. When the time comes my husband and I will definitely make the decision based on the factors you listed and anything else that seems relevant.

    With my daughter we opted to start her in kindergarten “early.” Regrettably, this decision was made mostly because I was working at the time and this would save on daycare as well as the prevailing sentiment was that “girls fare better when started in kindergarten early.” It was quickly apparent that she wasn’t ready and we had to make adjustments. Thankfully we explained the move to her in a way that she understood and accepted and she has no lingering thoughts or stress about her early experience with kindergarten.

  21. Kimberly at Rubber Chicken Madness 03/12/2012 at 4:56 pm

    I have two boys with summer birthdays and elected NOT to hold them back for the year. They are both socially and academically well-adapted. I have no regrets. But I believe it’s a child by child decision. No one can make a blanket statement that says it’s “good” or “not good” to do so.

  22. Heather 03/12/2012 at 4:16 pm

    I have a June boy and a July girl and our cutoff date is August 31. We went ahead and sent both at the age of 5. Our son is now a sophomore in high school and is ranked 16th out of a class of more than 500. Academically, we weren’t concerned about him then or now. He hated the middle school years as the boys around him seemed very immature, and his teachers were always surprised to discover that he was one of the youngest in his class. His refusal to be a 3rd generation football player by the time he was 4 kept athletics out of our decision.

    Our daughter is now a 7th grader, and I am more worried about that decision to start early that I ever was with our son. Add to that the fact she’s a “late bloomer” and I worry about her socially. Academically, she does very well, and she has a sweet group of friends. I am just more worried about the “Queen Bees”…. But not sure f it would be any less a worry if she were in 6th this year rather than7th.

  23. adrian 03/12/2012 at 3:58 pm

    My son has a late June birthday, He is 4 soon to be 5 in June. My concern for him is that we no longer have half day kindergarten available in our area and I dont think he is quite ready for full day classroom days. I am not concerned about him acedemically being affected as he has done very well in his preschool class this year, but I am concerned about him socially. He is shy and reserved. Preschool for me was getting him out and around other kids socially. He also has a speech delay which makes it harder for him to interact. I plan to do an advanced young 5’s class for him next year instead of going to kindergarten or repeating the same preschool course he was just in(which I think would bore him). My reasons are not to give him an edge in sports or even academics I just hope that I am doing what is best for him and that I dont push him to far too fast. I don’t consider myself an overprotective parent OR a helicopter parent, but possibly some people could see me that way. I do also think that we push our kids to grow up too fast and expect too much from them at young ages so that could be part of my decision as well.

  24. Stephanie Porter 03/12/2012 at 3:47 pm

    I highly recommend the book Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax

    For boys waiting a year, for summer/fall birthdays is recommended. For girls, it’s optional. My girls are both September birthdays and started kindergarten a month before they turned five.

    There are inherent differences in the way boys and girls learn, should be disciplined, and experience life. If teachers would read this and teach to the kids in their classes, you’d find boys and girls thriving in our schools. It doesn’t take much to make the changes Sax suggests. I wish our school system would pay attention and inspire our kids.

  25. Kalli 03/12/2012 at 3:22 pm

    My 3 year old son turns 4 in August and we are planning on holding him back as well. The major reasoning being that he will have just barely turned 5 when kindergarten starts and I’d like him to have that extra year of emotional maturity behind him before embarking on the next 13 years of his life in the school system. I’d much rather have him be the oldest than the youngest.

    It is a little weird when I consider the fact that my friend has a daughter 2 weeks younger than him that I’m pretty sure will go to kindergarten when she’s 5. Say what you want but I think boys are girls emotional and social maturity skills vary greatly at that age. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

    My parents always said their biggest regret with my older brother (July birthday) was that they didn’t give him that extra year before starting school.

  26. Allison Y. 03/12/2012 at 3:17 pm

    In California we don’t even question it unless they are a Fall birthday. I could count on one hand the number of people I know that held back a summer birthday, most all go to kinder since our cutoff date is December 1st.

    I do think there are parents out there obsessed with giving their kids an advantage. Clearly you are not one of them, but they are out there for both sports or academics.

  27. Shelly 03/12/2012 at 2:55 pm

    I completely agree with doing what is best for your child. However, I think the system is becoming stacked because so many people are holding their children back. Many, many of the 6th grade boys are more than a year older than my daughter, and that is concerning. Had I known the stats, I might have held her for just that reason. We thought about it carefully with an August birthday but she was academically ready. And her preschool teacher affirmed that. I do know 5th grade boys who are bored, and in a public school classroom there is little that can be done to challenge them when the teacher needs to focus on the kids who are barely passing. Looking back, I’m glad we did it, because she is above the emotional drama going on with the 5th grade girls. We just need to teach her to watch out for your sons ;-).

  28. Kathryn @Expectant Hearts 03/12/2012 at 2:53 pm

    That piece made me mad.. and I”m not sure where this blog post author is from but I have heard that “redshirting” for advantage is more common in the east and southern parts of the US.. I held our now 7th grader back. He has a spring birthday but at that time was getting Physical therapy, and speech therapy. BEST decision we ever made. I’m sure he would have been fine if he had started Kindergarten at 5 but he has done SO well. HE saw this 60 minutes piece. I explained to him that my decision wasn’t so that he’d be strongER, biggER, etc but so that he’d be as strong AS, as capable AS.. (he does some athletics, he wrestled for the first time this year.. he’s above average in size, so he wrestled ALL 8th graders.. I think any athletic advantage evens out).

  29. Mary Daikos 03/12/2012 at 2:53 pm

    My daughter has a fall birthday and the cut off in our state is December 1st. She went to preschool when she was 3 and 4, and then we had the kindergarten decision. Academically, she is very advanced. But she has struggled (alot) with social skills issues.

    That said, everyone (with the exception of her preschool teacher from last year) that knows her – including relatives, other teachers that I know, and her therapists – strongly supported and encouraged our decision to send her to kindergarten. She actually started kindergarten a full month *before* she turned 5.

    She tested literally off the charts during her beginning of the year assessments and her social skills have been improving steadily. She’s one of (but not *the*) youngest. But, even if she was the youngest, it would be ok. Somebody has to be!

    I fully support your ability to make these decisions for your child but, if I’m being honest, I don’t always understand it. If my daughter had struggled this year, I would have had no problem holding her back. But I needed to at least give her the chance to show everyone what she could do. Thankfully, she rose to the challenge and I couldn’t be prouder of her 🙂

  30. Debbie/Cranberryfries 03/12/2012 at 2:32 pm

    My youngest (and only boy) will be 5 in July and he is tiny. I have thought about this so much because he’s been in preschool for 2 years now and I know he’s ready, academically he totally gets things. My husband had a summer birthday and was also short and his mom held him back so thats always been his stance.
    The more and more I read the conclusion I’ve come to is this. You will never regret holding them back but you might if you send them too early. Sounds like better odds to me. We’re letting him wait another year.