Helping your child to learn can be a challenge. While learning requires creative thinking, much of learning consists of rote memorization. Remember going over and over those times tables? Kids get bored easily. Your challenge is to find ways to make learning fun.
#1 - Make Learning Practical
Fractions can be the bane of many children's existence. However, if you show your kids real world, practical applications of fractions, the concept may become easier. Kids, not to mention adults, love desserts. If you have a cake, demonstrate halves, quarters, and beyond, depending on how many you are serving. This may make more sense to your kids than simply looking at numbers or pictures of "pies" divided into fractions in books.
This type of practical learning doesn't have to be limited to the kitchen and dining room. Your garage is also a perfect place let your child learn more about fractions by measuring wood and helping mom or dad with a fun building project.
#2 - Make Learning Special
Kids love to feel special and unique. Spend "alone time" with your child and incorporate some learning. Reading a book while following the words with your finger, is a good introduction for children who are just learning how to read. As your child starts to learn the alphabet, you help your young one pick out letters during your special reading time.
You can also set aside a special time everyday to "learn something new". This can be based on your child's school assignment, flipping to a random page in a child's encyclopedia, or even taking a walk around your neighborhood and then going back home to look up some of the plants and animals you spotted.
#3 - Play a Game
Remember Go Fish and Crazy Eights? Play card games with your kids to help them learn numbers. As an added bonus, your children will learn the fundamentals of good sportsmanship. As your children learn, add in progressively harder games that rely less on chance and more on strategy. Be careful though. You may end up with a card-shark Go Fish kid!
#4 -Take Day Trips
What are your kids learning about in school this week? If your children are learning about dinosaurs, take them to see some "real live" fossils at a local museum. If your kids are learning about the history of their town or state, take them to some historic local sites or buildings (you can usually look up some spots online). Your kids will be excited about the excursion and won't even realize that you are putting them through a learning experience.
#5 - What Does Your Child Love?
Children often go through periods of obsession when learning. For example, some kids fall in love with trains. Others fall in love with dinosaurs. Even if you have seen an exhibit at a museum a dozen times, take your kids back again. Your children will always learn something new while visiting old "friends." At the same time, you can introduce your kids to other parts of the museum to spark new interests.
In addition, keep track of new exhibits. Museums always rotate in new material. A special exhibit that features a subject related to your child's "learning obsession" can be a real treat for all of you.
#6 - Let Your Child Teach You
Children love to be in control, particularly if they have control over you! Let your child be the teacher from time to time. Yes, you may have to take over once in a while if your kid makes a mistake or takes you in the wrong direction. However, your child's gleeful expression as your kid corrects your "mistakes" will make it worthwhile. Take your pick. This is terrific for math, vocabulary and spelling.
Your child can also read an assignment to you rather than the other way around. Then, you child can ask you questions about the reading. After a while, it can be your turn to ask your child questions.
#7 - Plan a Vacation
We, as a society, are often too focused on getting to our destinations as quickly as possible. On your next vacation, slow down a little. You might want to:
- Explore small-town museums;
- Look at historic markers; and
- Take a look at regional "tourist traps" just for fun, no matter how silly they are.
Not only can your children learn about the history and geography of the area your family is visiting, you will all be building up terrific memories that you will cherish in the future.
#8 - Be Positive and Responsive
Above all when working with your children, be positive. Focus on the progress your child is making and, while not dismissing mistakes out of hand, make sure that your child understands that making mistakes is a natural part of learning. Making mistakes doesn't mean your child is "stupid" or "dumb."
You also may need to remind yourself to stay patient. Remember that you still sometimes find yourself where your child is now, struggling to get a concept that is just around the corner from being understood. You just have to help your child to find the path to understanding. This means that you may have to explain that path several times before your child actually remembers or you may have to find an alternative path that explains the concept differently.
Think in terms of your child's concept of time. If you are dealing with a grade school child, 15 minutes can seem like an eternity while 15 minutes can go by in the snap of a second for a teenager. Your child has limits. Much as you would like, you aren't going to be able to figuratively pound a concept into your child's head, particularly if you are pushing beyond your child's attention span. Switch subjects or go doing something fun for a while.
Your child will learn. And, so will you.