What age should the youngest child enroll in 1st grade; at what age should parents consider postponing for 1 year their child's enrollment? Playing is very important for a child and that is why there is a minimum age and a right to postpone the child's enrollment for 1 year but I appreciate that more playtime is not always needed. Being with children your age and doing age appropriate stuff is more important sometimes.

In most countries and their educational/legal systems children enroll in 1st grade when they are 6 years old; there is a caveat to that the child is considered to be 6 years old not when they actually are 6 years old at the first day of school but on 31st December of the year they should enroll. Most countries also give parents the right to enroll their children 1 year later; postpone the enrollment for 1 year.

I had friends of mine including a headmistress say that they thought it is better to let their children play.

Should a child born on mid October for example be considered for enrollment postponement (they would be 5 years and 11 months old if they enroll regularly while if they have their enrollment postponed their will be 6 years and 11 months old)?

I really like the clear cut rule most Countries have (anyone born untill 31st December) but the fact that so many people make use of the exceptional (or what was supposed to be an exception) right makes me doubt the rectitude of the rule. If the rule is correct (considering that the special cases are also very few) shouldn't there only be a couple of parents choosing to postpone the enrollment (when the children are really special cases and not simply too young and in need of more playtime)? Since playing is so important was it taken into account by the Governments?

I hope the question is on topic. I also considered Education and Politics stack exchange but I favoured Parenting because I appreciate that out of the Three Parenting is closer (the right is given to Parents and it is their choice to postpone or not I am only secondarily questioning the rectitude of most Governments decisions and the Educational Policy in General).

  • Playing devil’s advocate here: Considering the current global crisis, I would most likely have postponed sending my children to first grade (in a mostly remote school setting), independent from development milestones etc.
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 7:55
  • My mom who was an Elementary Ed teacher held me back as a July birthday and I'm really happy she did. Personally, I would say September would be where I would stop holding students back, but I don't have any data to back that up. Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 15:16
  • @RobinClower So would you put the cut-off date at 30 September (or 31st August)? I am interested in the North Hemisphere where the schools start at mid September. Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 15:24
  • I would probably go with the day school starts, which happens is normally late August to early September. Pretty arbitrary, but you have to draw a line somewhere Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 16:33
  • @RobinClower In most jurisdiction the line is drawn on 31st December. That way (unless some kid gets held back) everyone in the same class is born in the same year. In Scholl I was in the class of the kids born in 1996. Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 16:57

1 Answer 1


Every child is different, and some parents consider their children "more ready" than others to start school. I'm in the UK, where most children begin school the September after their 4th birthday. This means that some children in the same class are just 4, whereas some will be nearly 5, so classrooms contain an age range that spans a whole 12 months. I can see the sense in having some flexibility. In the UK, the first 'reception' year is not compulsory, but nearly every child does attend.

If your intention is to put a child through the school system, as opposed to some alternative arrangement like homeschooling, my experience tells me that it makes sense to start them as early as possible. The danger in starting late is that they may end up either behind their classroom peers in terms of social skills required to cope in the school system, or so far ahead of them that they are not stimulated by classroom activities which can lead to boredom and poor results.

My own experience - I started school aged 4 years and 4 months. My mother taught me to read well before I began school, and as a result I was bored during the early years when the class was still being taught phonics. This boredom followed me through school, and I didn't really do well academically until much later. By contrast, my own daughter had a huge interest in books but couldn't read or write beyond writing her own name before she began school at age 4 and 2 months. She instantly took to school's approach to teaching and was reading to an impressive standard very quickly.

I cannot think of a good reason to delay a child's schooling. It is an end-to-end system. The early years are designed to set them up for the rest of it, and changing the beginning can only have an effect on the entire process. If the only option is to delay for an entire year, that is a long time to continue 'learning through play'.

  • My question was quite different. Think of it as such If you were to decide on a cutoff date knowing that the right to postpone enrollment (hold-off your child) would be severely curbed (only truly special cases could get postponed and only a couple of children would get the postponement granted) where would you place the cutoff date (would you mantain it 31st December or place it on some other date)? If you put the cut-off date later younger children may need more playtime but if you put it earlier older children may get bored waiting for a year. Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 18:59
  • This question could be more of a family-planning question When is it best (to plan) for your child to be born? there is a tradeoff between playtime and boredom. When you get more playtime you risk getting bored. So as a parent when family planning I would like to plan for my child to be born exactly on the "theoreticall" cut-off date. That way they are the youngest that no longer need to be kept of school to play but the boredom is also minimized (ofc given that the are not so young as to have such a big need to play). Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 19:05
  • The question is abstract (non-specific) and probabillistical. It looks at the mean (expected) youngest. I want expectations on the cut-off date. When do you expect children to no longer have such a big need to play Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 19:07

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