Learning doesn’t have to start—or stop—when the school bell rings. In fact, what happens at home can boost your student’s academic skills and spark a quest for knowledge that will last a lifetime. Check out these easy, fuss- and pain-free ideas to create a home setting that ignites your child’s passion for learning.
Foster creativity, joy, competence, and independence.
Sounds like a lot to manage at once but, in fact, this is easier to do than you might imagine.
Begin by giving your child some freedom to select a school wardrobe (within the boundaries of what’s appropriate in your district). Then let her add fun accessories and use novel supplies at home or in the classroom. Everything looks better covered in stickers or glitter. You’d be surprised: pride of ownership—and the desire for self-expression—can go a long way to get kids to sit down and start an assignment.
Being involved in lunch prep, too, is another easy way to get your child psyched about participating and learning. Don’t hesitate to hand over some whole wheat bread, a small plastic spoon or knife, and something to slather in between—if your child expresses an interest. Look through cookbooks or check our list for fun food ideas to pack in a lunch bag. Remember, like adults, kids are more likely to stay engaged when they begin with a personal investment.
Sneak learning into every corner.
Make learning simple—and fun—by finding ways to naturally pique your child’s curiosity. Try hanging colorful maps on playroom or family room walls, leaving magnifying glasses outdoors, or stick-on letters inside the tub—they’re all great ways to inspire discovery and learning. Foster a love of music by playing classical, jazz, or any other tunes you like as you set the dinner table. Create a “wow-I-didn’t-know-that-moment” by leaving illustrated guides to trees, insects, or birds in the car for your child to thumb through on road trips.
You don’t have to transform your home into a classroom. That can turn kids off and take the fun out of learning. Instead, fill your kid’s world with opportunities. Let him learn and discover on his own terms, at his own pace, to get the most out of the experience.
Make writing an everyday thing.
How often do you put a pen to paper and write anything these days? Even shopping lists are usually tapped out on a smart phone. To a twenty-first-century child, writing can seem unimportant unless she sees it as something your family values.
One of the easiest ways to create a writer-friendly home is to begin a family journal. No need to make it a touchy-feely, tell-all affair (unless that’s your style and your kids lean in that direction). Instead, simply use it to record interesting events in everyone’s lives or something a family member heard or read that made an impression. Take turns jotting a sentence or two down each day, and if your kids are older, let them alternate as designated writers.
Look for other opportunities, too, to resurrect writing. Encourage your child to send a handwritten letter to an aunt who lives far away or mail a complaint to the company that discontinued a favorite cereal. Write thank-you notes instead of e-cards. When writing is second nature, kids will have an easier time completing school assignments, as the act of putting a pencil to paper will no longer seem overwhelming.
Fill their world with great books.
Words are all around us, but to ignite your child’s imagination, boost her vocabulary, nurture good communication skills, and build character, you need to provide more than just “stuff” to read. You need to feed her a steady diet of rich stories, poetry, and works of wonder.
Leave a smattering of different types of books all around your home for your child to find and wander through at her leisure. In the car, classic fairy tales work for all ages (the good ones in which the witches are eviler than evil and virtue triumphs); look for ones with entrancing illustrations that will keep your child from begging for your phone on long trips. Place your favorite childhood novel on the living room table. When you “catch” your curious reader picking it up, spend some time sharing memories of reading. What about the bathroom? Stack volumes by quirky and hilarious poets (like Shel Silverstein and Hilaire Belloc) and turn those “lost” moments into pure delight. Of course, children learn most from watching you, so make time to read yourself (in front of your child), and put value on library trips where you can introduce her to awe-inspiring nonfiction and research collections with books on everything she loves.