List of NJ Towns with Free Pre-K, Late Birthday Cutoffs & Half Day Kindergarten
So, you're thinking of moving to New Jersey from NYC. But you have a young child and aren't sure if passing up on NYC's free Pre-K 4 All (UPK) program is worth it. After all, in most cases it'll mean having to pay for Pre-K 3 & 4, which is upward of $7k - 10K per year in most districts. And if that child has a late birthday between October 1 - December 31, they will enter Pre-K a year later in NJ than they would in NYC, so that's up to THREE YEARS extra of either fee-based preschool (or staying home). And let's say you have twins with late birthdays. You're looking at an extra $60k in schooling / child care for those 3 years. I know. It's a lot to take in. We've been hashing over it for years now. And I'm here to give you the info I've gleamed!! **There may be mistakes in here - please let me know if you find any errors or outdated info!!
UPK in NYC:
My twins are currently enrolled in an amazing free Pre-K program here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Getting in is a bit stressful as it's a lottery, but in NYC you are guaranteed a seat, though the location could end up being far from your home. We got lucky for all 3 of our kids getting seats at programs less than a mile (walkable) from our home. And nearly everyone does get into a school not too far away, though many avoid the stress by paying for their child to go to the 3's preschool program at that school, so they'll have first priority to get the free UPK seat. The rest of us simply list our top 12 schools in February and cross our fingers! The good news is you're waitlisted at the schools you ranked below the one you were offered. In our case this past year with the twins, we were offered our 11th school. But by September we'd been called by every single school we listed to be offered a seat! The program is amazing, even includes free lunch and snack. Unfortunately, due to Coronavirus, the school year got cut short by over 3 months early and we're pretty devastated. The teachers are still providing regular materials and activities for us to work on at home, and even calling to chat with my girls once a week.
Redshirting in NJ vs. NYC
NYC does not allow redshirting, i.e. delaying entrance into elementary school. Simply put, if you live in NYC, your child enters kindergarten in September of the year they turn 5 (i.e. birthday cutoff of December 31). So if they were born December 31, they will be 4 when they enter Kindergarten and the baby of their grade. My son was born on December 25 so he started Pre-K at 3 years old, which was amazing as far as free child-care goes, but emotionally, he struggled big time in Pre-K and K. If you don't want to send them to Kindergarten, no problem, but they'll start 1st grade with that same cohort that they would have started Kindergarten with. You can't simply enter them into Kindergarten a year later. It appears New Jersey is more flexible here and many choose to send their child a year later.
Most New Jersey districts set a minimum age of 5 years old by October 1 to start Kindergarten (list of later cutoffs coming below!). But let's say your child was born in September - you can discuss with that school to have your child wait to start Kindergarten the next year, when they're 6 years old. This minimum age continues through 1st grade, so if you're transferring your late birthday child from NYC, they would get held back for Pre-K, K, and 1st grade. After completing 1st grade (or is it 2nd? sorry I'm not 100% sure), it becomes a discussion with school administration as to whether you want to hold your child back or continue at their current grade level, knowing your child is likely 1-2 years younger than their classmates. It's not a huge deal in the younger grades, but once you get to middle and high school, emotionally and physically, I've heard across the board it's kind of a big deal and worth considering holding them back when they're younger.
NJ Towns with Late Birthday Cutoffs:
The state has recommended a universal birthday cutoff of October 1, and nearly every school district in New Jersey has put this into effect. However... there are a handful of towns that have slightly later cutoffs, which is worth considering if you're desperate to get your kid into Kindergarten instead of having to pay for Pre-K. This may not be all-inclusive because I could not find a list, anywhere!!! This is a list I've personally compiled after researching, alot (please do comment below if you know of a town to add, or remove):
5 years old by October 31:
5 years old by October 15:
NJ Towns with Universal Free Pre-K:
This 2019 list is compiled from Pre-K Our Way, where the towns are listed by county; ALL 3 and 4 year olds in these former Abbott and Expansion Districts can attend free preschool. From NJ Monthly: "Abbott districts—now referred to as “former Abbott districts” because the rules have been updated—are typically urban districts where poverty is commonplace and the education system found to be constitutionally inadequate. Extra state funding is pumped into the districts, from preschool through grade 12. The communities that have universal, free preschool include the 31 former Abbott districts, whose schools the state is required to fund under the Abbott rulings, and four additional districts—Red Bank, Little Egg Harbor, Fairfield and Woodbine—approved in 2003."
NJ Towns with Free Pre-K for Some (via lottery):
** this 2019 list is compiled from Pre-K Our Way, where they're listed by county **
NJ Towns with Half Day Kindergarten:
But wait, there's one more thing to take into consideration... some New Jersey towns don't have free full day kindergarten yet!!! Over 90% of NJ districts offer free full day kindergarten, but about 40 districts hadn't converted yet and only offer half day for free!!! Some people may see this as a plus, but most don't. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to tell from their websites alone, so we've researched and asked around and put together this very unofficial and incomplete list of some of the school districts that haven't converted to (free) full day programs yet (each year, more are converting to full day - 76% of schools had it in 2012 and 94% had it in 2019, so be sure to double check with the district):
Other Things to Consider:
I first discovered the EggMazing Easter Egg Decorator (our review here) at the 2018 Toy Fair New York, then at the 2019 Toy Fair I excitedly found their TreeMendous Christmas Ornament Decorator (see our demo video here). And just a few months ago at the 2020 Toy Fair, I met their latest and dare I say it, greatest creation, the DinoMazing Dinosaur Egg Decorator, which is included in our Brighter Days Ahead Giveaway (enter to win here)!
This company has really found an incredibly unique niche, and while we are paid to review and promote them, I can say from the bottom of my heart with complete honesty that my family is absolutely in love all 3 of these products!! Keep reading for my full review and demo video of the amazing DinoMazing!
The DinoMazing machine works very similarly to the EggMazing and Treemendous in that you pop in 4 AA batteries, put your egg inside the machine, turn it on, and it spins while you color it with the included non-toxic markers. But this one goes above and beyond the previous two because decorating your dinosaur egg is just the beginning!!
Coloring your egg will EGGspose cracks in the egg, which look really cool but are purely aesthetic. The egg actually pops opens like any regular plastic easter egg right at the middle (which means you can put it back together and take it apart endlessly. When you open it, you'll find a sealed plastic baggy filled with (non-sticky mom-friendly) slime, from which you'll have to pull out the tiny dinosaur parts. Assemble them to make your dinosaur. Open up another egg to create a different type of dinosaur. And you know what? You can mix and match your dinosaur parts!!! My kids got really silly creating hybrids like the TyranoSteg (shown below left)! Or you can put the legs in the arm holes and head in the tail hole. Pretty fun!
Do note that some of these dinosaur parts are teeny tiny, so you'll want to be careful playing with these if you have babies or toddlers in the house. But other than that, have a ball! Boys and girls, parents and kids alike will absolutely love DinoMazing! It's definitely on my list of go-to birthday gifts for the 3-8 year old crowd!!
You can buy the DinoMazing set (comes with 6 markers, 2 eggs, and the egg spinning machine) for $27.99 on Amazon (affiliate link), and you can buy a set of 6 additional eggs for $27.99 on Amazon (affiliate link).
Don't forget you can win a DinoMazing set in my Brighter Days Ahead Giveaway (ending April 15)!!
EggMazing & Treemendous Demo Videos:
Most of us find ourselves in lockdown these days. Stuck at home while juggling work, our kids' remote learning, and 158 snack runs to the kitchen a day. It's hard. But we're the lucky ones. We're not stuck at home, we're SAFE at home. We're the ones not on the front lines exposed to the virus day in and out. We're the ones not sick enough to be in the hospital. So, let's take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are, to let our essential workers out there know how extremely grateful we are for them, and if you're so inclined, to enter this amazing giveaway for families - one lucky winner takes ALL the prizes listed below! Enter to win in the Rafflecopter box at the bottom, but first keep reading to learn more about the prizes!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by many of the brands included, and some links are affiliate links, meaning we receive a small commission from purchases made after clicking. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own and 100% unbiased!!
$100 Credit to DiscountGlasses.com
Whether looking for sunglasses (with or without prescription) or regular glasses, DiscountGlasses.com has a tremendous amount of styles for toddlers through adults, at great prices!! I'm kind of obsessed with their "20 for $20" monthly picks - it's where I found my new favorite pair, fun and flirty super lightweight Westend Cherry Creek glasses (bottom right in above photo)! If you're nervous about ordering glasses online, don't be! They have free shipping, 365 day free returns, and virtual try on for most frames. So what do you have to lose? Our grand prize winner will receive a $100 credit to DiscountGlasses.com. Don't miss my full review of DiscountGlasses.com from September here!
The DinoMazing Dinosaur Egg Decorator
You may or may not have seen my reviews of The EggMazing Easter Egg Decorator or the TreeMendous Christmas Ornament Decorator (if you haven't, be sure to click through to see them), and now this genius team is back with a brand new EGGstremely awesome toy: The DinoMazing Dino Egg Decorator!! It comes with 2 plastic eggs and 6 markers to use while the machine is spinning your egg. Coloring EGGsposes cracks in the egg, which aren't functional cracks but look cool!! You open it up from the middle like a regular reusable plastic Easter egg and inside you'll find a baggy with non-sticky (yes!! no mess!!) slime and pieces to a tiny dinosaur! Each egg's dino pieces can be mixed and matched. This is such a fun toy - great for birthday presents or even just a fun surprise to break up the boredom of covid-19 quarantines! Be sure to check out my YouTube demo video below and stay tuned for my full blog review!! Our grand prize winner will receive 1 DinoMazing set including the decorator, 2 eggs, and 6 markers.
$30 Credit from Tiny Human Clothing
With adorable designs for babies through adults, Tiny Human Clothing is a family-run Made in the USA apparel store featuring fun, positive, and authentic clothing utilizing advanced printing technology (take a look behind the scenes in this short YouTube video!). On their website you'll find unique clothing in infant body suits (sizes 6 - 24 months, $13.99), tees for adults (sizes XS - 3XL, $24.95 - $29.95), and a full line of toddler and children's tees, long sleeve tees, hoodies and pullovers (2T-5T and kids' sizes S - XL, $13.99 - $26.95). Lots of great ways to play matchy match with your kids or whole family!! Our giveaway winner will receive $30 credit from Tiny Human Clothing (with free shipping)!
The Right Feet Foot Insoles
Teaching kids left from right foot and which shoe goes on which foot is a real struggle, am I right?! The Right Feet is trying to make that lesson much simpler with their shoe inserts! Simply replace the shoe's original insoles with these by The Right Foot and your child will know immediately know the correct foot for each shoe! You can buy them on their website in 3 sizes: (196mm / Euro 27-28 / US 11 ; 207mm / Euro 29-30 / US 12 ; 217 / Euro 31-32 / US 13) for about $10 a pair. Our winner will receive 1 pair in their choice of size.
Wubba Water 6-Pack Electrolyte Drink
It's a good idea to stock up on an assortment of over the counter medicines and hydration drinks BEFORE illness hits your home, but did you know most electrolyte drinks out there for babies through adults contain some rather unexpected and unwanted ingredients - we're talking synthetic dyes, artificial flavors, and artificial sweeteners. No thanks, am I right!? That's why you should know about an organic and healthier alternative to Pedialyte: Wubba Water, a hydration drink marketed for kids but actually perfect for the whole family, that is free of synthetic dyes, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and GMO's! Colored only with fruit and vegetable extracts and having only 1 gram of organic sugar per serving, Wubba Water is a healthier way to replenish water and electrolytes when sick (and get a Vitamin C boost to boot)! Our winner will receive 2 bottles of each flavor - blue raspberry, fruit punch, and orange, a $15 value.
ENTER TO WIN BELOW:
Terms: Open to US residents ages 18 and over. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on April 15. Winner will be randomly chosen, emailed, and given 48 hours to confirm or a new winner will be selected. Good luck everyone!!!
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1). This blog is chock full of product reviews, family travel guides, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, and several guides focused on kid-friendly activities and guides to South Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, as well as family-friendly destinations beyond the NYC area (check the menu bar!)