Tired of nagging your kids to turn off the music and tv so they can sit quietly and study or do their homework? Quit. It turns out a little background noise helps kids relax, and they are more likely to stay focused longer. They are also more likely to retain the information better.
If your child expresses curiosity about a topic, that is the perfect opportunity to get some library books and study together. If you simply answer every question your child has, you are missing a great chance to bond over learning. Kids want to understand everything around them. Sometimes all we see is a little boy breaking stuff, but what we are missing is that he is not simply destructive, he is figuring out how things work and sometimes to do that it makes sense to him to pull it to pieces. As a kid, I disassembled clocks, sewing machines, tape players. I just had to see the working parts.
Take advantage of the time in children’s development when they are not afraid of making mistakes. Before they get into school and are ridiculed for mispronouncing words or asking “stupid questions”, bolster their self confidence by letting them ask any question, explore and experiment. By the time kids are halfway through elementary school, one of the things they will unfortunately have learned, is to hide their curiosity because they will fear it makes them look ignorant.
Make It Fun
When I was trying to teach a five year old to play tennis, I watched his mood get blacker and blacker as he kept swinging and missing. I knew if it became a source of frustration for him, he would quit, so I figured out a way to make the learning process more fun. I filled a laundry hamper full of small water balloons and tossed them instead of tennis balls. We both laughed and screamed every time because when he hit there was a terrific splat and when he missed there was too. It was obviously more fun for him to pop the balloon with his racquet so he really zoned in on it and more than doubled his effort and success rate. It’s the same for studying and homework. If parents can find ways to engage their young children in fun activities while they learn, they will continue to find learning fun.
Try not to make it feel like drudgery, if they seem anxious or frustrated, suggest a break. One of the best ways to help them retain information is to have them teach you. Ask them to read some of the material they are studying and then explain it to you in their own words. They will realize that they do know more than they thought, and this will help boost their confidence.
Make Time For Unscheduled Play
These days parents feel like they need to have their kids in every available extracurricular activity to make sure they are well rounded. Kids need time to play on their own, use their imaginations, build alternate realities. Children cope with stress in many different ways but having time to play and fantasize is probably the healthiest.
Mark Weatherford is a high school English teacher and father who has a passion for encouraging children to learn. He loves to write and often covers topics ranging from parenting tips to advice on writing college essays.
Photo Credit: akiko@flickr