I have to admit to you that I used to love them.
I would print off worksheets or buy workbooks and have the kids do them all summer long.
Of course now I struggle. Something about using workbooks and those sheets feels so wrong to me. Especially for the younger set. Worksheets are a great way to organize the info and reinforce topics, but I still wonder.
Same goes for the endless number of holiday crafts and projects. I love all those cute snowmen made with cotton balls or octopus coloring sheets. Who doesn't want to make all those crafts on Pinterest?
And they are learning right! There are numbers and shapes. There are ABC projects using so many creative materials that my head is spinning. I pin them to my Pinterest boards like a mad woman and troll the aisles of the craft store in a frenzy.
Boy do parents love those worksheets and projects. They love them emotionally when they see the preschool printing and handprint butterflies. They love to display them proudly on the wall and send them to Grandma's house. They also let them know that we are doing things that are "educational". They hired a nanny and now look- it is like a private preschool.
Here is the thing that has been nagging at me for awhile. It started off low and it started to grow (sorry- too many readings of The Grinch lately). These things are not really for the kids as much as they are for me and for the parents.
My growing suspicion, backed up by a lot of reading on the subject, is that playing a great game of legos can teach my kids more about colors and counting than 10 worksheets. I am guessing that instead of a cotton ball snowman, building a real one would teach them more. We can teach them the ABC's while playing in our pretend store. And while most parents want little Jane to know those ABC's and to be able to count to 100 by age 2, that time will come. It might be more important that Jane learns how to imagine, to solve problems and to communicate.
These activities have their place. I still do them and for older kids- depending on the school they are headed to- they are crucial. Parents sometimes need a little of these no matter what we explain to them. And to survive the school system, kids will need to produce things that make a teacher happy. But I am going to offer that in small amounts and know that the time will come and they will learn that game. My time with them can be spent have a discussion, taking a walk, or playing a game.