Experts have argued that pushing toddlers and preschoolers to learn information too fast and too early through formal training is unnecessary and potentially even harmful in the long run; however, utilizing educational tools and resources to have fun is totally permissible and at times a real life saver for keeping little hands busy. If a little learning takes place along the way, all the better. We have been stuck inside for the last several days due to weather and I have found myself ever so grateful to be able to pull out some printable packs to focus my two year old’s attention on some fun and engaging activities.
Toddlers and preschoolers are a unique audience for printable creators. They don’t sit still for long, mostly lack fine motor coordination, and often will find an entirely different way of utilizing the printable pack than the creator imagined. Common printable activities require drawing lines, connecting dots, tracing letters or words, and coloring pictures, which are often beyond the skill level for children this young. Forcing them to complete these activities at such a young age is likely to lead to frustration and may interfere with later learning. It’s also simply not necessary. Children this young are very hands on and more likely to enjoy exercises that encourage active play, imagination, and discovery.
Printable activities such as identification of objects (what is it?), sorting objects by category (cold versus hot), and matching objects (red hat and red hat) can be made more accessible to toddlers by printing the activities on cardstock and/or laminating the sheets for manipulation by little hands. Simple puzzles or the provision of creative spaces for use with crafting materials are also interesting and easy printable ideas to implement with young children. When shopping for printables to use with your toddler or preschooler try to find packs that are fun, simple, active, and interactive.
Try to have reasonable expectations about what a young child can actually do with a printable. Don’t hand a child this age a printable pack and expect them to independently and quietly complete the activities. That day will come, but not at this early age. Printable packs are a wonderfully fun way to engage your child in some basic learning, but are unlikely to be useful for independent play until the child is older. Try to read over any printables you are planning to use before showing them to your child to make sure that you are comfortable with the activities and have any crafting materials you wish to use on hand.
Toddlers and preschoolers often handle small bursts of activity better than long periods of sitting and concentrating. Don’t plan on using an entire printable pack in one sitting or expect it to fill up a whole hour or even half hour. If your child does get that involved with the printable, a) I’m jealous/impressed and b) there is no harm in letting him or her enjoy.
Look for printables that:
- Allow for the creation of manipulatives (cards, puzzles, craft sheets)
- Encourage active play (crafts, scavenger hunts, activity cards)
- Offer short, easy to continue activities
Printable packs that offer the same activities in the same order, but with different themes can be particularly useful for this age group. The children get accustomed to the manner in which new information is presented and are often able to more thoroughly enjoy playing with these printables and often absorb more information. Children this age often thrive on routine and predictability, so if they know which activities to expect, they are more likely to be engaged and interested for longer periods of time even as the content or theme changes and presents new information.
Most importantly, find a way to use the printables that works for you and your child or children. Don’t feel limited by the printable creator’s instructions. If the images and activities provided would work better in an alternative fashion, use them that way and enjoy playing with your child. If they aren’t fun, they aren’t worth completing!
What printable activities or indoor games does your toddler or preschooler enjoy doing? Seriously, we’ve been snowed in for days – toss me some ideas 😉