When is it a good idea to repeat kindergarten?

Signs Your Child Might Benefit

When a teacher or other education expert recommends repeating kindergarten, it's seldom (if ever) about a single skill your child is behind on. Rather, it's about an overall picture of a child who may be too "young" -- physically, cognitively, socially or some combination thereof -- to thrive in first grade. This may or may not be related to your child's actual age. Rates of development are simply too varied to hang on chronology.

Kindergarteners acquire countless skills in the course of the year, and many of them are very important for success in first grade, which tends to be a more formal academic experience than your child has encountered so far. First graders typically start the year knowing how to count at least to 10 (and usually beyond), reciting the entire alphabet and knowing the sounds of most of the letters, reading and writing simple words, and using "creative spelling" to put their own thoughts on paper. These are only a handful of the academic skills that most graduating kindergartners have acquired, and if your child is lacking in several of them, he or she may be starting first grade with a deficit that can affect the entire year -- and the ones that follow.

Specific pieces of knowledge are really only part of the picture, though. Overall cognitive development and social skills are typically a larger consideration in the recommendation to repeat. If your child is unable to follow simple multi-step instructions, follow a task through to completion without getting overly frustrated or distracted, work as part of a group, listen to a story without interrupting, or sit still for the duration of a short lesson, he or she may not be quite ready for the relative rigors of first grade.

Other signs your child may benefit from another go-around include:

  • a complete disinterest in the kindergarten curriculum
  • frequent bathroom accidents
  • an inability to take turns and share
  • significantly delayed fine-motor skills
  • significantly smaller physical size than his or her peers
  • difficulty handling even slight frustration

If you're considering having your child repeat the year, he or she is most likely behind in more than one of these areas -- and there's little question that a student is better off starting first grade in step with the rest of the class. What many parents have trouble with is whether their student will be better off repeating the year.

And the question of benefit vs. detriment can be a more difficult one to answer.