Kindergarten used to be a time for learning through play. It was a primer for “real school” with the big kids. The curriculum consisted of learning to use scissors and crayons and very basic skills. Teachers never held kids back unless they were still too young to begin first grade.

Nowadays, kindergarten isn’t quite as relaxed as it used to be. Kids are already beginning to learn math and reading skills. This helps kids meet new learning standards imposed by the government. Some kids may need more time to absorb all the information they have to know by first grade.

The number of children being held back is increasing. About 5 percent of children are held back. Parents want to know the reasons behind the teacher’s decision to hold a child back. While it can be upsetting, some of the reasons may benefit your child over time and doesn’t actually mean they are not smart. Read on to learn about children repeating kindergarten.

Is Repeating Kindergarten the Right Choice for Your Child?

When you find out that your child’s teacher wants him or her held back, you may have some mixed feelings and questions. It is important to not take this personally for you or your child. Teachers are trained to spot your child’s educational strengths and weaknesses. Call your child’s teacher and ask for a meeting so you can discuss these areas.

  • One of the reasons for having a child repeat kindergarten is that they are still young or small physically. Children of smaller stature can feel intimidated if other children are bigger. Even if your child is learning normally, holding back until they grow a little more can help. 
  • Another major reason is academic progress. It doesn’t mean your child is less smart or they will not be able to learn like other children, it is a matter of readiness to learn. Your child may be highly intelligent, but the thought processes are not ready for first grade. Pushing them too fast may cause them to struggle and become frustrated.
  • Schools also look at a child’s social skills. They assess to see if they are making friends and getting along. Social skills come with maturity and if your child seems behind in this area, schools may recommend they stay in kindergarten an extra year.

Of all the reasons to hold a child back, it is usually gauged on a combination not just one. A small child who is academically doing fine, may catch up on physical growth and be just fine in first grade. A child who is doing fine academically, but low on social skills may also catch up. But a child who is small, not making friends and therefore struggling academically may need an extra year in kindergarten.

To help you see if your child may benefit from being held back, look for the following signs:

  • Doesn’t count to 10
  • Cannot recite the alphabet, recite letter sounds
  • Cannot read and write easy words
  • Cannot follow instructions and complete tasks
  • Does not sit quietly and still while being read a story
  • Having a lot of bathroom accidents
  • Cannot share or take turns
  • Underdeveloped fine-motor skills
  • Cannot handle frustration

The Pros and Cons of Repeating Kindergarten

The decision for holding a child back in kindergarten can be hard and sometimes it helps to look at the pros and cons of holding a child back:

Pros: Repeating kindergarten can help ease the transition into first grade, lessening any insecurities in your child. Being older in first grade than other children gives them more confidence and sets them up for success.

Cons: There is some social stigma surrounding kids who are held back. They may feel some embarrassment and this can make them feel negatively about themselves. Holding a child back that is behind can sometimes put them further behind.

It is very hard to predict how your child will react or benefit from being held back. In order to lessen any negative effects, stay as positive as possible. Making it a positive experience for your child will help lessen any stigma and increase their chances of learning what they need to learn to move on.

Repeating Kindergarten Or Not? Make the Right Decision

Kindergarten teachers are constantly assessing your child during the year. They may know very early on if he or she isn’t progressing. If you find out early enough, ask the school for help. Set up a meeting with the school and see what you can do to help your child progress better.

If you need to hold your child back, ask for a different teacher or consider sending your child to a different school. Sometimes a new experience can help them catch up. Try not to overthink your decision and make it painful. There are plenty of successful people in life that stayed back in kindergarten. 

Once the decision is made, sit your child down and talk to them with a positive tone. If you sound upbeat about the whole thing, they will have an easier time accepting it. Let your child know they are not in trouble and that going to kindergarten one more time will help them.

Establish communication with the teacher and make sure your child is given more of a leadership role in the classroom. It will help your child if he or she can be teacher’s helper.

What Others Say About Repeating Kindergarten:

“In my experience teaching first grade, the most issues I see are when children have been pushed into first grade too quickly. It is very common for boys to need more time with development of academic and social skills. If you think your child needs more time in kindergarten, speak to both your child’s teacher and the first grade teacher.”


“In working with kindergarteners, there is usually one or two kids that seem to be a little behind the others. This is usually the kids that did not go to daycare or have enough socialization. When they get into large groups of other children they tend to lose focus. You can usually tell because these are the ones that cling to a parent or the teacher. If your child does seem to adjust socially and get used to the structure, they should be able to advance to first grade just fine.”

What Should Children Learn When Finishing Kindergarten?

Knowing the skills your child will need for first grade can help. Here are some signs of readiness for first grade:


  • Can function in a group
  • Handles frustration
  • Can go to the bathroom, tie shoes, zip jacket


  • Speaks and listens in turn
  • Can ask questions and give answers to questions
  • Understands the words: below, above, between


  • Can say the alphabet. Knows the difference between upper and lowercase
  • Can say letter sounds
  • Writes own name
  • Can sit and listen to a story and knows the beginning, middle and ending
  • Counts to 10
  • Knows things that are same and different
  • Writes simple short sentences