Picture the typical preschool worksheet, numerals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, arranged across from drawings of grouped objects. These worksheets are available by the dozens, free online or in purchased workbooks. They can be fun, but possibly they will make a mom pull her hair and cry and scream.

Picture the bright little girl who loves routine and knows all the answers. It seems so fun, for both of you, feeling all smug about doing school. But at home it takes a minute or two to do a worksheet that takes 30 minutes in a classroom, as the teacher works to get everyone to focus, to get ready, to pass out papers, to focus again, to explain the page, focus again, do the page, round-up all the kids who did not do the page and get them to do it, then collect the papers. Whew. In the meantime your sweet little girl has run through 10 pages and wants more. She likes doing it right and knowing she’s right. It takes time, energy and money to create enough work pages for this child, and then she wants to keep them all. Worksheet overload!

A second little girl happily sits down to do school with mommy. She loves your attention. Looking at the worksheet she sees a flower which gives her all kinds of ideas. While she colors the flowers in pink and purple she chats with you about the options for pretty pink flowers, hair bows, tea parties, room decor and more. This little girl is all about relationships and creativity. She isn’t too interested in numbers, and 20 minutes later she has not drawn a line from the flower to the 1. It’s hair pulling time for the logical sequential mom.

Waste of Time?

Picture a third child. He knows all the answers, but is not interested in a silly worksheet. If he knows it, why should he bother? If this child gets his mind off the self-initiated project you took him from so he could do school, he is likely to focus on errors on the page. Mom, why did they make the key red? Keys are not red. Why does it only have five numbers? Where is 20? The question for you is will you make your son do the page or recognize that he knows the answers? It is a waste of his time, and yours.

Finally, there is the boy who just wants to play. He enjoys games, and pretending, and large motor activity. He is not ready to sit down with a pencil. When you insist, he sticks his tongue in the corner of his mouth, grabs the pencil and makes a great dark slash across the page. Oh no! That’s not right. Erasing the ugly mark rips the paper. Tears, and maybe tears from mom too. Your son is done. Those three minutes of effort were all his attention span. This little boy feels like a failure and chances are mommy does too. The reality is most preschoolers are like this child, preferring to play and having very short attention spans.

Budding Learning Styles

Of course all these children could be either a boy or a girl. What we see here are budding learning styles, but what we see of learning styles in preschool is not necessarily what you can expect as they grow and develop. Preschoolers are concrete learners who need to learn through play and real life activities. That is their developmental stage. While worksheets can be fun, and an interesting diversion, they are not the best learning tool for preschool. Play a game, build with Legos, run a race, or sip some pretend lemonade and enjoy the fun of learning with little ones.

©2013 by Debbie Feely. Used by permission of the author.