Should Parents Give Their Preschoolers Homework?

If all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, what does it do to preschoolers? Many feel that preschoolers should be allowed plenty of unstructured play time; others say a structured program is important to prepare youngsters for school. Which approach might be best for your child?

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The Value of Playtime

Numerous studies have shown the importance of play for cognitive, physical and social development. So important is play that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has called it the 'right' of every child!

Yet many preschools across the United States are identified as 'academic' preschools. These schools emphasize learning, in some cases resulting in a decrease in play time. Some of these preschools might even require homework.

Is this necessary, or even beneficial? Some say no. Forcing homework on young children might make them rebel against it, a trait they could carry into their academic years. Introducing schoolwork to children who are too young might also lead to 'burn out' before the child even gets to high school!

Preschool should introduce students to some educational basics such as colors, shapes, sizes, numbers, simple sentences and easy addition and subtraction. But for the most part, preschool is a time to develop a motivation to learn and a disposition for learning.

This can be achieved in many cases through entertaining activities and not so much through the structured format that later grades will implement. Arts and crafts, games and physical activities can incorporate learning while remaining fun and more like play time for the child.

Mixing It Up

A healthy mix of work and play seems to be the best recipe for preschoolers. And by 'work,' I mean simple worksheets that require coloring or simple letter- or number-tracing that take no more than a few minutes to complete.

Homework should be fun activities that emphasize child-parent bonding because the preschool years are important for kids to spend time with their moms and dads. 'Homework' can also be activities such as reading to your child or arranging play dates with friends to help build social skills.

Helping children develop independence can also be important to prepare them for school. You might have them select their own food from a restaurant menu or be responsible for cleaning their own rooms.

But many might agree that what you should do most with preschoolers is to let them go off and be kids. There will be plenty of time for school and homework later in life. For the parents of preschoolers, that might be the best lesson of all.

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