Want Happier, Healthier Kids? Put Off Kindergarten for a Year

Can too much schooling be counterproductive? Obviously, those bombarded with tests and pop quizzes will answer yes, but what about our little ones? There's been much debate surrounding when a child should start school -- and a new study from Stanford University might support delaying kindergarten for the sake of mental health.


Researchers at Stanford published a new study that links to the Danish National Centre for Social Research, and it is quite interesting to say the least. Based on information collected from a national Danish survey, they believe children who wait a year before officially starting school will likely have stronger mental health and well-being. The survey worked with roughly 36,000 Danish mothers and asked them a range of questions about their child (they focused on kids ages 7 and 11), when they started kindergarten, and behavior. Participants were then given a questionnaire hoping to target any noteworthy links to mental health -- including feelings of restlessness and overstimulation.

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As you might've guessed, the results lean towards starting kindergarten later. From the looks of things, those who did were not only less hyperactive, but also more likely to pay attention in school (definitely a score in the self-regulation department). This will be music to any 5-year-old's ears who wants to store away the backpack in exchange for more playtime.

I'm sure there are a number of you reading this and rolling your eyes. Mental health and kindergarten? Really? I'll admit, sometimes we do make too much out of certain things, but this caught my attention.

If starting kindergarten at age 6 instead of 5 makes so much of a difference when it comes to focusing in school, perhaps it wouldn't hurt to allow our little ones the extra time to play. I know life's not about games (well, you can play the game of LIFE. I call the green car!), but maybe "redshirting," or holding off on kindergarten -- for the sake of emotional growth, among other perceived benefits -- might have some merit? Then again, this study can also make us look to our educators and how much they try to cram into a single day. We just might want to rethink cutting PE and recess so our children aren't frustrated little academic zombies. It's okay to be young and want to play on the playground.

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With two little boys who, in a few years, will need to head to kindergarten, this is definitely something that's food for thought. I just wish there was more to this study, as the variables might outweigh the results. For starters, researchers found kids who come from better socio-economic backgrounds are likely to benefit from a later start. And given this survey seems to have asked moms about their child after he or she attended kindergarten, and had them fill out a questionnaire based on what they could recall -- it sounds a little sketchy ... but that might just be me (my memory can be horrible, and I might overlook something important).

I don't know what the best equation is for academic success, but think we need to go back to the drawing board (generally speaking).


Image via 2xSamara.com/shutterstock

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