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Creative Kid Defeats Kindergarten Worksheets

Published in ChicagoNow, September 22, 2014

When my grandson started kindergarten this year, I worried. After all, he’s the kid I wrote about who wondered when his preschool teacher would get her timeout. In several posts. I shared my hope that he and his fellow kindergarteners would receive developmentally appropriate educations, as well as some of my ideas about how to make that happen.

After he started kindergarten, I breathed a sigh of relief because he seemed to have a teacher who gets it. Yes, she has to teach him sight words and make him complete worksheets. That’s the kindergarten curriculum these days. But I also know she smiled when he completed his worksheet pictured above.

One of the things I love most about young kids is how they can repurpose things to suit their imaginations when given the freedom to do so. Cardboard pizza circles can become planets. Bubble wrap makes lovely stained glass when colored. Tissue and yarn make the best doll clothes. And don’t forget about the limitless opportunities provided by simple unit blocks:

Many years ago, when I was still director of Cherry Preschool, we put all of our gym equipment into storage and replaced it with large cardboard boxes, pieces of material, string, markers, glue, etc. We did this in winter when the kids were sick of day after day of indoor play. And here’s what they did:

They learned so much as they transformed the boxes into houses, forts, castles, and trains. Their play became richer and more complex. Imagination ruled in this cardboard kingdom as new play scenarios were created each day. It was sad to bid the well-loved but broken boxes farewell, although returning to outdoor play was a pretty good replacement for this beloved activity.

So, this is my plea to all of the early childhood and kindergarten teachers being pressured to teach kids stuff so they will be ready for what they are expected to do down the line. Stop. Or at least slow down if you can. Let these little guys retain their joy and creativity as long as possible. Let them play enough to learn and learn to play well with others.

If you have to give them worksheets to complete, and I totally understand that many of you have to do this to keep your jobs, please remember to smile when you get one back like my grandson’s.


by Laurie Levy
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