My Son Was the Youngest in His Kindergarten Class (and He Did Just Fine!)


Redshirting is the delay of the start of formal schooling for a child by one year, typically so as to avoid a situation in which the child is among the youngest in their class. With an August birthday, my son was right at the cusp of the cutoff date for kindergarten entrance. Even when I was pregnant, my husband and I knew we would have to make a choice about my son. Would we put him in as the youngest in his kindergarten class or hold him back a year?

youngest in his kindergarten class

And as parents we got lots of advice.  Some of it we took, but plenty of it passed in one ear and out the other. My parents, my in-laws, other moms, and teacher friends all had advice to share.  

Here is a list of redshirting arguments we had to consider when decided his fall 2018 placement.

“But He’s a Boy!”

Yes, boys typically mature less quickly than girls.  They can be more impulsive, more spirited or more likely to cause headaches for their teachers.

But some boys are people-pleasers like my son. He loves rules, listens to directions, and ultimately wants to make the adults in his life happy.  His individual emotional IQ was appropriate for Kindergarten entrance. We spoke with his pre-K teachers and they felt he had the classroom skills to start kindergarten.

We’re happy to report there were no behavioral or emotional concerns all year.

“Holding him back would make him a leader”

Nope, that’s not my son. The title “a thoughtful follower” better suits his personality.  An extra year is not going to make him more decisive, more outgoing or more strong-willed. That just isn’t him.

The right parenting, the right school and the right friends hopefully make him a person who is able to distinguish right from wrong and act accordingly. And this year, he has grown the appropriate amount.

“He’ll Be the Smallest”

Right now, he stands in the front row for class pictures.  There is a definite height difference between him and the majority other boys (the tallest of whom were definitely redshirted).  But he isn’t the shortest boy and definitely is around the same height as many of the girls.

Based on family genes, he will catch up and pass plenty of the boys in the years to come (online articles argue as soon as third grade).   

“He’ll be the last to (get his license, etc)”

Yes, yes he will. There will be some milestones he has to wait for.  He still is waiting to lose his first tooth (which can be delayed for boys anyways).

At 15, he may have to make friends with the older kids for rides. We may have to place him in a different age-based sport level than his classmates. But these what-if’s don’t stop the what-now’s of how he is a peer and friend to his classmates. He is included and most kids and class parents don’t know or notice that he’s the youngest.

Overall, our son had a happy and successful Kindergarten year.  Redshirting was an option, but we chose to recognize the capabilities of our son. And on his last day of Kindergarten, we saw a happy, normal kid.



  1. As a teacher of more than 20 years, I have seen many many kiddos who started kindergarten too early. Some had parents who worked and they needed the child care, some had parents who felt that their child was going to be just fine because they knew their letters and numbers (no social skills, but they could count), others didn’t know that they had the option to keep their child in preschool for one more year of social development. I can name two children who had a July or August birthday, who truly did ok without the benefit of one more year in preschool. Regardless, kindergarten is no longer a time where students have the gift of learning through play, and the teacher can dedicate the necessary time to social skills development and interpersonal relationship skills training. Time is absorbed with benchmark testing, fluency monitoring and many more assessments or prep for said assessments. This notion that we should get our children into the academic classroom as soon as possible is foolish and often prideful. Let your children grow up and develop naturally. Harvard is not going to look at your child’s application and turn it down just because they started kindergarten at 6 instead of 5, nor will they give you brownie points for starting your July birthday kiddo just days after their 5th birthday. 99% of the time starting them early is just a shame.


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