In 2015, Stanford’s Graduate School of Education published a new study in the National Bureau of Economic Research titled “The Gift of Time: School Starting Age and Mental Health”, co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Thomas Dee.
The study showed that children entering into kindergarten at the age of 6 instead of 5 saw a 73 percent reduction in attention and hyperactivity at the age of 7, and it demonstrated significant mental health benefits for children. The study’s findings also align with other research that has shown an extended period of early childhood play, such as in preschools, yields mental health developmental gains.
Creating a better environment
Children have an innate sense of wonder and awe, and are hardwired to want to make sense of their surroundings.
In a play-based preschool, the environment allows for purposeful play and discovery. Exploration and play during these formative years can turn children into open-minded adults who are risktakers and sophisticated thinkers.
Building confidence and self-esteem
These two traits are essential in laying the foundations for a seamless entry into junior school.
Research has found that children who are emotionally skilled perform better in school and relationships in the long term, as they are more comfortable and have better coping strategies when transitioning into their junior schools, universities and working life. They tend to show persistence, better stress management and communication skills.
It makes a huge difference
The study found that many parents are opting to delay kindergarten enrolment for a year in the hope of giving their children a leg up in maturity and other social emotional skills.
In fact, Swallows and Amazons Principal Jackie Barkham has seen this in school as well. “I recently spoke to a parent who had previously sent both children to us. One left when she was five and the other left just before her fourth birthday to join her sister at the same international school. The parent told me that she noticed a difference in how the kids coped in their new junior school; the older one was more self-confident with better communication skills, whilst the younger one found it more overwhelming. Even their new teachers noticed the difference,” said Jackie.
According to Stanford’s Professor Dee, it’s not about when you start kindergarten, but what your child does in those classes. “If you make kindergarten the new first grade, then parents may sensibly decide to delay entry. If kindergarten is not the new first grade, then parents may not delay children’s entries as much,” he says.