Redshirting isn’t just for college athletes anymore. While once upon a time, kindergarten was full of four and five-year-olds, many classes today see five and six year olds entering the halls on the first day of school.

“Max wasn’t ready,” explains Missy Calhoun of Austin, Texas. “When his sister was entering kindergarten two years earlier, she was so excited and eager to learn. Max wasn’t. He needed another year at home with me before he felt ready to go.”

Parents may choose to “redshirt” or delay their child’s school start one year for a variety of reasons. Some do it to give their child an edge – making them the bigger fish in the pond. Others do it because of a late birthday, smaller size, lack of maturity, or a genuine noninterest in school.

“I definitely think redshirting is appropriate for certain children,” says Carrie Brody, kindergarten teacher in Columbia, Connecticut. “So many parents like to push their child forward into kindergarten, when holding him out a year would give him such an advantage and make such a difference. It can increase his confidence, making him much more successful in the future.”

Whatever the reason, schools are seeing more and more parents holding their child back from kindergarten enrollment. And parents everywhere can feel unsure on whether or not it’s the right choice for their child. If you’re on the fence about what to do this fall, consider this list of questions we’ve compiled to help you decide if your child is ready.

Is he ready to learn? Most parents seem very concerned about what their child knows and does not know. There’s a pressure to walk in the door to kindergarten with a certain level of knowledge about letters and numbers. But teachers aren’t expecting your child to read. The following are all good signs that your child is ready to learn:

  1. He’s recognizing his own name and beginning to learn to write it.
  2. He can name colors, recite the alphabet, and count up to twenty.
  3. He can follow simple directions.
  4. He enjoys listening to stories, music, and books.
  5. He knows his phone number, address, and the names of his family members.
  6. He can sit still for a small chunk of time for an activity.
  7. Has she had practice sharing, taking turns, and solving problems with words? Preschool programs, playgroups, and day cares are a great way for a child to be prepared to survive in a school setting with peers.
  8. Can he take care of his basic needs? Kindergarten teachers are quite used to tying shoes and zipping jackets, but it certainly helps if your child can do some of those things on his own. Is he getting dressed by himself? Going to the bathroom solo?
  9. Does she have a late birthday? Your school district has a cutoff date. And if your child just barely makes that cutoff, know that she will likely always be one of the youngest in her group. And while this may not seem to matter in kindergarten, remember that she will stay with this group for the next 13 years.
  10. Is he a boy? Kindergarten teachers everywhere urge parents to consider gender into this equation. Boys, more than girls, can sometimes suffer the consequences of being the smallest or youngest in the class. In general, boys mature more slowly than girls. Many educators believe giving them an extra year is a good thing.
  11. Does she want to go to school? A child who is counting the days, backpack ready, is very different from a child filled with anxiety or indifference. All other things being equal, this may be the decision maker when it comes to making the choice about redshirting.

“Redshirting should be a collaboration between the teacher and parent to make the best decision for the child based on his/her academics, maturity, development, and school readiness,” urges Brody.

If you’re wondering whether or not your child is ready, ask for an assessment from a kindergarten teacher in your school. Make sure to ask the teacher not only if she’s ready, but also where she would stack up when compared to her peers. Weigh the pros and cons for starting or delaying. And think about your child. No one knows her better than you.

For more on the subject read:

Redshirting: What's It All About?

Are Today's Kindergartens Anti-Boy?

Ready for First Grade