Supporting children's learning - 9 tips for busy parents
As a primary school teacher, I regularly see the difference that can be made to a child’s learning through parental support and involvement.
It's no surprise given that children spend as much as 75% of their time at home, that those children whose parents support their learning tend to be more motivated, engaged and enthusiastic in school, and are more likely to achieve their full potential.
Here are some of my top tips to help busy parents give their children the support for learning they need :
Establish a good bedtime routine to ensure your child gets enough sleep and you will instantly assist them in school.
A well-rested child will find it easier to concentrate, will be less likely to pick up infections and will generally have more positive relationships with friends - all things that are conducive to good learning.
Bedtime is also a wonderful time to share a love of reading and books. If you are enthusiastic and positive about books, it is more likely rub off on your child.
There's no doubt that maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge, but by setting a good example and encouraging children to eat a nutritious diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in fat and sugar, you will not only be educating your child in healthy eating, but also helping to ensure they are able to concentrate fully in school.
For more tips on how to help boost your child’s concentration, have a look at our article and video “7 Tips for Boosting Your Child's Concentration”.
Talk to the teacher
Don't be afraid to make contact with your child’s teacher on a regular basis. This can be face-to-face or via email, and can be a valuable way of finding out how your child is getting on.
Also, as a parent, you know your child better than anyone else - their interests, strengths and weaknesses. By sharing this information with the teacher, it can help the teacher make lessons even more meaningful for your child.
Your child's school should keep you up to date with what your child is learning in school, but if this isn't happening – ask!
Talk to your child positively
Encourage your child to chat to you about how their day went - good or bad. This will not only help develop memory skills, it will also help develop their ability to express their emotions and you can help extend their vocabulary beyond ‘It was good/boring/ok.’
No matter how their day went, try to reinforce the positives, give lots of encouragement and tell them how proud you are of their hard work.
If you are getting very little by way of information out of your little learner (and don't worry, this is normal), try asking specific questions "Did teacher read a story today?", "Who did you play with a break time?"
These can be easier questions to answer than a general "What did you do today?" When the answer to that is quite overwhelming for a child to describe.
Making Mistakes is Okay
Kids often see mistakes in a very negative way. In the classroom, I often surprise kids by telling them that I like it when they make mistakes...because they can often learn much more from working out what went wrong.
Foster this positive outlook through openly chatting about your own mistakes - ‘One mistake I made today was…’. Encourage your child to talk about any mistakes they have made and help them think of solutions.
Homework and Reading
Set aside a regular slot for homework and give your child a healthy snack and drink before they get started. Try to ensure that your child has a quiet area away from all distractions.
They should do homework sitting at a desk or table, in good light with all the resources they may need (pens, pencils, scissors, glue etc.) to hand so there can be no excuses to break concentration.
For older kids, help them organise a homework schedule that they then take responsibility for completing on time. Discuss the homework together to ensure your child knows what to do, then let them get on with it.
Homework is generally consolidation of work covered in class, so your child should be able to complete it with minimal support. It is a good opportunity to reinforce the importance of kids taking responsibility for their own work and progress. Should your child appear to not understand the homework, do let the teacher know.
There will be times when your child needs a helping hand with homework. Before you help them, chat with them about what the problem is and see if they can think about how or where they could find the answers.
Aim to get your child to read aloud to you for at least 10 minutes every night. Regular reading practice will greatly aid their progression. You can also practise reading skills in day to day activities - reading labels in shops, road signs, posters and notices...share bedtime stories; you read a line/page, they read some, and so on.
Possibly one of the easiest ways to help support your child across a range of subjects is through cooking or baking. Kids love cooking, and by getting them to help you prepare meals, you can incorporate learning without having to find any extra time.
There will be lots of opportunities to explore reading weighing scales, measuring jugs and also to use comparative language such as heavier, lighter, full, empty etc. You might even be able to include some estimation - how many handfuls of pasta do you think it will take to have 200g? While the item is cooking, you could use a timer and ask questions such as, what time will it be in 10 minutes? What is half the cooking time? etc..
Playing board games such as ‘Snakes & Ladders’, ‘Ludo’, ‘Junior Scrabble’ and ‘Monopoly’ are fun ways of teaching kids how to share, take turns and how to be a good winner or loser. They also develop numeracy and literacy skills. Other games such as ‘Hangman’ and ‘I Spy’ help with spelling and phonetic awareness.
In the Car
Car trips are a busy parent's ideal time to fit in some learning extra learning, without the kids even realising.
Develop kids’ phonetic awareness by playing ‘I Spy’. ‘Guess the object I am describing’ can improve a kid’s understanding of adjectives and vocabulary range.
You can also develop thinking and memory skills through the car game “Think of an animal”. Take turns to think of an animal, the other then as yes / no questions such as “does it have fur?” until the animal is identified.
Our article “Are We Nearly There Yet? Maths Games for Summer Journeys” has plenty of numeracy games ideas, suitable all year round and for all ages, so I’d recommend a read of it.
Hopefully, these suggestions will give your busy family some helpful and practical ideas, and maybe inspire some other creative ways of incorporating learning into day to day routines.
Any activity that includes creativity, imagination, problem-solving, co-operation, reading, writing, talking, numbers, shape or measure in any shape or form, will go some way to support learning.
Kids can be learning anywhere - outdoors, indoors, travelling, playing - a combination of creating the right learning environment and consciously making the kind of learning activities I’ve mentioned a habit, can help you feel confident that you are giving your child a great educational start.
About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.