Many parents and teachers use preschool printables (also known as worksheets) to help children practice certain skills like tracing, letter recognition, and coloring. Printables can play a valuable role in the preschool classroom and at home, as long as they are balanced by plenty of hands-on activities. Simply having a child fill out worksheets all day long can actually defeat the purpose of learning. It becomes a rote skill and can be very difficult for preschoolers as they are just developing their fine motor skills.
That being said, there are many reasons why parents and classroom educators will want to use early childhood printables in their teaching.
So when is it appropriate to use worksheets with preschoolers?
There are certain skills, for sure, that can only be learned by putting a pencil (or crayon as the case may be) to paper. Children need to learn how to hold a writing utensil correctly and having them use that pencil or crayon to color or write is good practice.
Learning how to write letters and numbers is another good reason to use printables. Young preschoolers can trace over the alphabet or numbers on worksheet papers (that often have arrows to help guide them). This is terrific practice for them!
Children also put into effect their fine-motor skills when they are using printables. Training the small muscles in their fingers to correctly hold a pencil/crayon and use small movements to color and write is a valuable skill they will use the rest of their lives.
Now, another reminder: printables can used inappropriately. We need to remember that our goal is to help our preschoolers develop the skills they will need in kindergarten and NOT to turn them INTO kindergarteners! They are preschoolers!
Letters and numbers are still symbols for preschoolers. They have not broken the language code yet. This means that worksheets as a table activity where the children print their names, copy words, etc. has no cognitive meaning for them yet. The children will, therefore, not only become bored with this activity, but also frustrated. And, being bored and/or frustrated= behavior issues.
I suggest laminated the sheets that you are using and provide low-odor, dry erase markers. This allows the children to practice in a way that is fun (seriously, what preschooler does not like the "magic" of erasing their marks and re-printing them......and in different colors?!!). Provided in a fun and hands on way, preschool printables can be a helpful tool in teaching young children.
There are many types of early childhood worksheets that you can use at school and at home to teach the skill listed above. Here are some of the most common ones:
Coloring: Of all the types of worksheets, coloring pages are the most commonly used. There are, of course, many variations of coloring pages. Some are for free coloring, where the child choses his/her own designs. Some are color-by-number (or letter), where the child has to match each number space to its corresponding color. I do not recommend the latter. This requires the children to "stay within the lines" at an age where the goal should be developing the muscles in their hands. They will not have the control needed to stay within the lines yet, so expecting them to sets them up for failure from the start.
Tracing: These worksheets are the kind that children follow the arrows, a faint outline, or dots to trace the shape, letter, or number that they are learning. These are great pre-writing and fine motor development practice sheets.
Dot to Dot: Many teachers will dismiss these as just "fun," but dot-to-dots teach a valuable skill - letter or number order and eye-hand coordination skills.
Matching: There are many variations on this type of worksheet. For example, on the top of the page may be the letter A. The students then have to find all the pictures on the page that start with the A sound and circle them. Or the page may have pictures of adult animals on the side and the students have to draw a line from each to its matching baby animal.
Luckily, for teachers and parents, printables are not hard to come by! Here are some of my favorite places to find quality printables:
Here are a few books you can find at Amazon. Click the pictures below to see what they have for prices! These are great to use. You can tear the pages out and either laminate them or place them in clear, report cover pages. The children then use dry erase markers and they can be used over and over again!
PrintNPractice.com - This site is dedicated to worksheets you can print, laminate and use!
TeAch-nology - Has many free preschool printables, but also an option to upgrade to a membership to access thousands more.
Nick Jr. - If your kids like the Nick Jr. characters as much as mine do, they will love the printables that feature them.