Kindergarten is a year of education between home, daycare, or preschool and elementary school whose approach involves playing, singing, practical activities, and social interaction. Kindergarten institutions originated in the 18th century in Bavaria and Alsace to provide a place for kids to go during the day while their parents worked.
German pedagogue Friedrich Fröbel recognized that children have unique needs and capabilities and created the concept of kindergarten. The German word kindergarten can be translated to “infant garden.” Both the concept and the name stuck, especially in the United States.
In the United States, kindergarten is typically part of the K-12 educational system and begins the primary education (elementary education) years of formal education in most jurisdictions. In most state and private schools, children attend kindergarten for one year beginning at age five.
American kindergartens have been around for about 150 years, starting when Elizabeth Palmer Peabody opened the first English language kindergarten in the U.S. The first public-school kindergarten opened in St. Louis in the 1870s and soon there were hundreds around the country.
U.S. states have different laws and requirements for kindergarten. Most states require a child to be 5 as of a specified date. As of 2018, 18 states require kindergarten attendance for children wishing to continue to elementary school.
Below are the kindergarten entrance ages for each state. States that are designated a local education agency (LEA) indicate that a local school board oversees and implements education policies as set forth by the federal government.
- Minnesota – 5 on or before 9/01 (school board may adopt an early admissions policy)
- New Jersey – LEA option (school districts may admit children aged 4-5, and they must admit children aged 5-6. The cutoff date must be after October 1)
- New York – LEA option (students must be between 4 and 6)
- Ohio – LEA option (Districts may adopt a resolution establishing August 1 instead of September 30 as the required date by which students must have attained the specified age
- Pennsylvania – LEA option (students must be between 4 and 6. The minimum age for kindergarten is 4 years and 7 months before the first day of the school year)
- Vermont – 5 (LEA may require students admitted to kindergarten to attain the age of 5 on or before August 31 and January 1st)
- Wisconsin – 5 on or before 9/01 (Kindergarten entrance age is 5 on or before September 1 for 5-year-old kindergarten or age 4 on or before September 1 for 4-year-old kindergarten.)