When is it a good idea to repeat kindergarten?

Pros and Cons

There are no easy answers when it comes to grade retention, and experts are divided on whether repeating kindergarten is more likely to lead to long-term benefit or deficit.

On the positive side, keeping your child in kindergarten for another year certainly reduces the likelihood he or she will begin first grade in a rough spot that could lead to long-term academic and social insecurity. Staying in kindergarten means not only repeat exposure to the curriculum and so a greater chance of picking it up, but it also means being the oldest -- and most knowledgeable, mature and capable -- student in class, which can increase confidence dramatically, setting the tone for long-term positive self-concept and continued school success.

For a child who is behind his or her peers, these potential positives are real and significant. There are, however, problems that can arise when a child is "held back." These same problems are an issue when repeating any grade; but regarding such an early grade as kindergarten, some people question whether the potential benefits can outweigh the potential drawbacks.

And those possible downsides are significant, too. Some children might suffer from the social stigma of repeating a grade and end up feeling embarrassed and ashamed, leading to a negative self-concept. Experts also point out that holding a child back due to developmental delays is, literally speaking, further delaying development. Many of them suggest parents seek independent evaluation for specific developmental delays and then, if the results warrant it, spend time in occupational therapy over the summer to try to catch up.

In the end, it's impossible to predict how any individual will respond to staying back or moving on -- or even how much progress that child will make in the last months of school or over the summer. For all anyone knows, your child could end up perfectly on track by the fall.

There's no right answer, and it's important to keep in mind that we're talking about 5 and 6 year olds here. Few of them will be deeply affected by (or even remember later on) repeating kindergarten.

The most important thing, in the end, is how you react to the situation. No matter what you decide to do, keep in mind your child is looking to you to set the tone. Whether it's kindergarten for a second time or playing catch-up over the summer to prepare for first grade, a positive, low-pressure attitude is essential. This is not about how smart or good or "normal" your child is. It's about how developmentally ready he or she is for first grade at this moment in time -- and children will reach their milestones when they're ready.

For more information on grade school, child development and related topics, check out the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Church, Ellen Booth. "Repeating Kindergarten." Scholastic.com. (June 5, 2012) http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=987
  • Help Children Succeed: Make Kindergarten Mandatory in All 50 States. Change.org. (June 7, 2012) http://www.change.org/petitions/help-children-succeed-make-kindergarten-mandatory-in-all-50-states
  • Mlyniec, Vicky. "Should Your Child Repeat Kindergarten?" Parents. (June 5, 2012) http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/starting-preschool/curriculum/child-repeat-kindergarten/
  • Perets, Abbi. "Should Your Child Repeat Kindergarten?" Family.com. (June 5, 2012). http://family.go.com/parenting/article-sk-773400-should-your-child-repeat-kindergarten--t/