These are not your usual worksheets. You may balk and say that worksheets are ruining education today. And for the most part, I would agree with you. But let me reiterate: these are not your usual worksheets.
Since I am always wanting to find the best and most appropriate homeschool materials that match my educational philosophy, I’m constantly on the look out for great products and resources. One of my many jobs as my kids’ teacher is to make sure they know how to think. Doing both logical and creative activities help to achieve this.
I honestly don’t remember how I found out about Tin Man Press. I think I had been searching for something specific, and their website came up. I quickly fell in love and sent away for a catalog. From the look of their catalog, I could tell they were a small company. The catalog is small in size and their products are unusual (in a good way). So for about a year, I marked up the catalog, trying to decide which products to get for our schooling. As luck would have it, the company was interested in having their products reviewed, so they sent me review copies of a few of their products.
Tin Man Press has been producing educational products for elementary school kids since 1979, and they’re always working on new ones. Their philosophy is summed up thusly: “Our goal is simple: Help children learn to think—and like to think.” I agree wholeheartedly with their approach. If a child is engaged with an activity, and is enjoying what he or she is doing, then that child will learn and retain what is learned. That was my experience when my kids used the Tin Man Press materials.
It’s hard to sum up what kinds of materials they have, short of saying that they are all for thinking skills. But more specifically, there are activities centered around drawing, virtual field trips, cutting, logic, following directions, thinking ahead, writing and observation. Some activities are stand alone things, others build on previous activities. Some are bound in books, others are loose for easy reproduction. They all make kids think, and will remind adults to use their brains in new ways, too. Some of the activities are completely scripted, and the unscripted ones require little to no direction. That means there is almost no preparation time, and it really is grab and go. The only preparation required is making copies of the sheets.
Some of Tin Man Press’s products just have one type of activity. Just Write! has writing activities. Play by the Rules is all about following directions. Smart Snips contains cutting activities, some of which require thinking ahead. (If I do this, what will happen? What are the consequences? What will my decision affect?) But some of the products use more than one skill within that book. Are They Thinking? and Going Places both combine many different thinking skills into the activities. And the excellent Enrichment Packets allow you to either pick and choose what skills you want, or buy them in sets to cover all the bases. For all of the materials, some activities have definite answers, but many of them are very free form and require creative thinking or problem solving, where each answer will be individual to each child. It is awe inspiring how, given the same set of directions, what different things kids can come up with.
My kids couldn’t get enough of these activities. They kept asking for more, and didn’t want to go on to other subjects. After a while, I had to put them away so we could move on. “I think this is fun so far,” said my daughter, after we’d been doing a few sheets. My son was more skeptical, not wanting to do some of the original drawing on the Silly Sentences sheet in Smart Art Level 1, but I asked him to do just one of the nine activities, which he agreed to. He then proceeded to do all of the others without saying a word. He quickly saw the fun in it. It also helped my son to see my daughter enjoy her work.
My kids both really enjoyed the cutting pages. It’s a real tactile physical activity that has you think before you cut. I liked doing the listening activities because it really made the kids pay attention to the details I read. And the drawing sheets have inspired so much creativity in my kids! After doing an hour and 35 minutes of these activities, my daughter asked how long we’d been doing them, because she said it felt like 10 minutes. She said something similar the next day when we did more Tin Man Press activities.
Now that we’re on summer break, my kids still ask to do them, for fun! You know that something is a hit when they ask to do something like this at a time when they are free to choose their own activity.
Tin Man Press materials are wonderful for both classroom teachers and homeschool families, but also for any family that wants new activities to stretch their kids’ minds. They are great to do during summer break, too, to keep your kids’ minds active and engaged, between school years. They help you stay involved in your kids’ education, too.
Tin Man Press products range from $3.50 to $42, depending on the product and whether it is a single item or a whole series. They are available for sale on the Tin Man Press website, and occasionally available on Amazon through resellers. Products can be used for kids K to 6. Some of their products have a more narrow age range, but I found that my kindergarten age son had no trouble doing some of the activities that were meant for 3rd grade and up. Kids of different ages get different things out of each activity sometimes. Use these activities occasionally, or make them a part of your kids’ regular education. Browse the website, or send away for a free catalog. To save on shipping, many of their products are available for instant download.
Wired: Reproducible activities that stretch kids’ brains through creativity, logic, following directions and thinking ahead. They teach vital thinking skills, often lacking in today’s education. These are fun for kids to do and grown-ups to teach.
Tired: The materials that are in bound books are difficult to photocopy without ruining the spine.