Autumn has arrived and our school year is well under way. Our students have settled in nicely into the routines of the classrooms. The beginning of any school year means quite a few transitions. It also means that our little ones are growing up and may need to express themselves in new ways.
Parents often ask what they can do at home to help their child become better students. We thought we would offer some tips for activities that maybe you hadn’t realized could enhance the student in your child.
1.) Coloring: increases focus, concentration, dexterity, pincer grip, eye hand coordination and is great preparation for future writing activities. Offer colored pencils, crayons and markers and don’t worry about staying in the lines, that will come later.
2.) Play games: increases problem solving and critical thinking skills, while strengthening social skills and organizational skills. Patience and taking turns is not easy for a child, playing games helps children develop these skills. Depending on the game, students can increase spelling, word building, math and language skills.
3.) Make books available: wherever you go, make sure there are opportunities to read! Keep books in the car and have them available at home. You can even take them into a restaurant when out to dinner.
4.) Read together: reading is not only soothing, it increases the bond between parent and child. Children need to be read to as they learn to understand the subtle nuances in reading (lilt of the voice, how a question differs from a statement, etc).
5.) Work together: let your child help in the kitchen, with the housework or with the yard work. Children need purpose and these activities are seen as “important” jobs for them. They help to develop responsibility, respect for their environment and grace and courtesy.
6.) Talk to your child: Don’t just ask questions about school, talk about your day. Tell them stories of when you were a child. Children love hearing about what kind of experiences you had as a child and how their experiences match up. Another wonderful way to build a strong relationship with your child. This also encourages verbal skills, positive communication and confidence.
7.) Look at pictures: picking out details is a great way to focus on the little things. Often times, we look at a picture and don’t see the details. Allowing a child to take his time and really see the picture allows him to take note of details which can be helpful later on in creative writing and story telling activities.
8.) Encourage Grace and Courtesy: model behavior you want your child to emulate. Encourage the good mornings and have a nice day’s. This also encourages confidence in social situations and creates positive peer relationships.
9.) Don’t compare your child to others: We all develop in our own way and in our own time. Just because my brother has a knack for the sciences does not mean that I will or that I even am interested. Celebrate what your child is good at and interested in.
10.) Make patterns: use legos, blocks, change, balls or anything you can think of to make patterns. Have your child finish the pattern you start. Patterns are a great way to encourage critical thinking and problem solving and is a prelude into future math activities.
11.) Help through questions: Instead of answering, ask a question. For example, your child asks if they need to wear sneakers to the park. You could respond with the following questions: “What do you think?” “If you don’t wear sneakers, what will you wear?” “If you wear your sandals, what could happen?” “Do you think sandals are the safest option for the park?” Problem solving, critical thinking, understanding consequences, foreshadowing and accepting responsibility for one’s actions are all outcomes of encouraging your child to think for themselves.
12.) Be accepting of mistakes: no one is perfect and a young child is bound to make mistakes. Let you child know that making mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow. Sometimes children also need to know that mommy and daddy aren’t perfect either. Allow your mistakes to be learning opportunities for yourself, but also lessons for your child.
13.) Make Math Count: use dice to play games. The die lands on 4 so we do 4 jumping jacks; the die lands on 3 so we can have 3 crackers for snack; etc. This is a great way to incorporate quantity and quality into your child’s everyday life without the stress of being expected to complete 10 workbook pages. When your child is ready, add a second die.
14.) Don’t make workbooks mandatory: students who are expected to do workbook pages at home for a standard length of time tend to shut down at school. Make workbooks available to your child, but allow them to make the choice as to when they work with them or when they don’t. Giving them the freedom to choose may yield far greater results.
15.) Sing a song: singing with your child allows them to express themselves without embarrassment. Singing is a great way to practice rhythms, understand tempo, beat and loud and soft. These skills maybe musical in nature, but music and math are directly linked!
16.) Take walks together: promotes conversation, attention to detail, verbal skills, communication skills all while increasing interest in the world around them.
17.) Be patient: let the conversation develop; let children think through the dilemma to find a solution; let them spend 15 minutes observing the ant on the sidewalk…patience is a virtue and young children need time to develop into their own person.
18.) Support: demonstrate support of your child’s education through building great relationships with his teachers and the school community. Children have a greater chance of developing confidence, respect and a true love of learning if their parents role model for them.
19.) Believe: Believe that your child has the potential of finding greatness, but in his/her time AND in the areas he/she is drawn to. This builds self-confidence and increases a willingness to take risks and challenge himself in other areas. Children want to please their parents, sometimes to the detriment of their own happiness. A child allowed to explore all things has a greater chance of finding success in many areas, not just one.
20.) Celebrate your child’s successes no matter how large or small: Sometimes we need praise for the little things in order to take larger risks. If a child isn’t celebrated for understanding 0-5, why would she want to move on to 6-9? At work, don’t you want your boss to recognize your accomplishments? Don’t you look for your spouse to acknowledge something you did at home (clean out the gutters without being asked to)? This increases self confidence and who doesn’t want their child to be confident? I always tell my girls that I am their biggest fan. If I’m not, who is? My job as mom is to celebrate my children for who they are and who they grows into, which may not be what I want, but what they need.
Hoping these suggestions keep your little learner motivated and interested! Happy Autumn!