The COVID-19 pandemic has altered education in many ways. Parents, teachers, and school administrators have had to rethink how to educate children in record time. One of the more insidious practices that have thrived during these times is the proliferation of worksheets for toddlers.
In the Indian educational system, children are pushed to perform tasks that are not age-appropriate—writing or copying, but not enough time to engage in age-appropriate play. It is easy for teachers and parents to see written work as ‘learning’ because ‘writing’ is seen as tangible evidence of progress.
Unfortunately for our children, parents have bought into this ‘tangible evidence of progress’ instead of challenging it. The result is the innumerable ‘worksheets for download’ or ‘learning packages’ for two and three-year-old children. Instead, when children play, it is considered ‘timepass.’
What do two and three year olds need?
- love and connection,
- to feel safe,
- to be healthy physically and emotionally,
- to interact with others to develop communication and social skills.
How do worksheets foster any of these needs?
Completing worksheets becomes a stressful activity for both the child and parent instead of opening up opportunities to develop a rewarding, reciprocal relationship. Parents worry that their child will be left behind, and the child, at that age, has no idea why they must do these tedious tasks.
Being forced to do something that provides neither meaning nor joy does not foster a sense of safety or well-being.
It is not developmentally appropriate for two and three-year-olds to sit or hold a pencil/marker/crayon and write even one worksheet. At that age, their body is developing the skills necessary to sit for long periods. They must run, climb, and roll in play. These activities foster good sensory-motor integration. Yes, two and three-year-olds can use a crayon or a paintbrush, but what is developmentally appropriate here? At this age, they use large strokes and begin to understand art as a means of expression.
Nor do worksheets don’t provide any social interactions or improve communication skills.
Parents mistake worksheets as opportunities for language and literacy development. The best methods to foster language development and pre-literacy skills are already within their reach. They can read books, tell stories and engage their children in play. Sitting on the parent’s lap, these activities become bonding opportunities that the child will remember forever.
Now, would you prefer to run behind your young child, forcing them to sit and complete that worksheet?
Veena Kurwar is a teacher with fifteen years of experience in primary schools in various parts of India. She enjoys listening to her students as they make connections in their learning.