Why I don’t love flashcards for preschool

Do you use flashcards for preschool? Let’s break it down and talk about their effectiveness and if they actually work for preschool learners. Spoiler alert – I don’t like them!

Why flashcards are no good - why flashcards do not belong in early childhood and what to do instead.

Today I am putting on my “teacher” hat. My “early childhood educator” hat.

When I started in Early Childhood, I made a lot of my own teaching tools – because that’s what you do as a new teacher. I always wanted to purchase ready made because I thought they were so cute, but we were always told to make our own. I never understood why, so I researched. We were also told to stay away from flashcards. Again, as a new teacher, I didn’t understand why, so I researched. It made total sense to me and I am going to share my knowledge with you today 🙂

Flashcards for preschool

Limits the amount of imaginative play

There are actually a few reasons why I don’t believe flashcards should be in the preschool classroom. My number 1 reason is because it limits the amount of imaginative play in the classroom or home setting. Imagine you’re a child who is sitting at a table with a teacher and some alphabet flashcards. Your teacher is showing you a flashcard and making you repeat the letter on the card. You repeat this letter and you’re on to the next. BORING! As a parent, I would much rather walk into a classroom and see my child in the kitchen area playing restaurant with his friends with letters strewn about the table while they all make alphabet soup together and talk about the letters. Not only are they working on learning the letters (assuming it’s the teacher’s end goal), they are taking turns speaking to one another, they are playing together, they are playing side by side, they are sharing the letters, building friendships, they could be talking about the different colors of the letters, naming different vegetables that might be in the soup, writing down their friends’ orders – the possibilities are endless! Wouldn’t you rather, as the child, learn the latter way as well?

Simply not effective

Another reason why flashcards should get the boot is because it is simply not effective teaching for preschoolers. Studies have shown that preschoolers learn best through play and imitation. They are more likely to pick up something when watching someone else do it or them doing it themselves and discovering, rather than sitting and being told how to do it or what to do.

Preschoolers do not have the attention span for flashcards

Finally, preschoolers just simply don’t have the attention span for it. Early childhood aged children shouldn’t be expected to sit and listen, quite honestly. When I taught, I kept my circle time to a minimum because that is asking a lot of some 3 year olds to sit. And listen. Again, BORING! Of course I did new things to keep it exciting so they would sit and listen but they can only be anti-wigglers for so long. Sitting and listening to someone shout off letters from a flashcard is like torture to a 3 year old.

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Alternatives to flashcards

Exposure, exposure, exposure! If it’s letters you’re wanting to teach, put the letters on wooden blocks, LEGO bricks, plastic balls in a ball pit, sidewalk chalk games, sensory bins, ABC board games. And remember when you’re doing these things, for early childhood, your goal is not to teach them the letters. Your goal for this age is to let them familiarize themselves with the letters. Focus more on large motor, fine motor, pretend play, side by side play, etc. All of those skills are just as important!

Now, I’m not saying flashcards don’t work for anyone. They can be effective for some children, just like there is no right or wrong way to discipline your children, there is no right or wrong way to teach your children. Every child responds differently and yes, some would welcome a calm down session of flashcards from time to time. It does promote one on one time with the teacher / parent which can be an excellent reward for a calm day. I just usually kept them tucked away for desperate times and focused more on hands on learning activities – because who doesn’t love a good chat with their friends over a nice bowl of alphabet soup? 🙂

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