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Psychologist weighs in on when kids should start kindergarten

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Is a 5-year-old ready for kindergarten, or should the child wait a year?

That’s a question many parents are facing as the school year approaches.

Everyone has their own answer as to what age is best-suited for kindergarten. If they go early, they can get a jump start on their education.

“Since I started and my daughters started at age 5, I don’t see a problem with that,” Kathy Cox said. “They have assessments they go through to make sure that they know their numbers, their letters.”

But if you wait another year, they might handle a classroom and social interaction better.

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But in the end, it may be less about age and more about the learning environment the child is used to.

“That is a challenge for all these parents then,” Dr. Ann Lagges, a pediatric psychologist at IU Health, said. “Because, then, all these kids with different preschool backgrounds — and again, not all kids go to preschool — but then they’re all being put together in one classroom for kindergarten.”

Lagges said more and more people have been leaning toward sending kids later because of the more advanced material kids are seeing at earlier ages.

“People talk about how ‘well, you’ve got to get the kids ready for…’ whatever the next step is,” Lagges said. “And where is this going to end? Think about the ridiculous extreme of ‘Well, they need to be ready for algebra, so we better start teaching that in kindergarten.’ But, there is a cap in what kids can do in terms of brain development. There’s absolutely no way, say, that a kindergartner could do algebra. Their brains are just not ready for that. But, they are definitely raising the bar.”

That may seem like a good argument for starting kids later, but one year isn’t going to make too much of a difference if they seem prepared.

“If, socially, they’re able to be in a group of other kids, that they’re able to follow directions reasonably well from an adult, and, ideally, that they’ve got some basic prekindergarten skills — so, like, they know their colors, maybe they know at least some of their letters, some of their numbers — then they’re probably ready to go,” Lagges said.

One way you can make sure your child is ready is by seeing what your chosen kindergarten or teacher wants them to know and work on those skills. Reading to your kids is also a great way to help them learn.

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