Sometimes you might want to support your child in a structured way. There might be a specific aspect of their learning that they’d benefit from some extra support with – practising their writing or working on some maths problems. This can be a great way of helping your child to feel confident and to master something they’re finding tricky. There are plenty of resources available to support you with this.
But just as important is making the most of opportunities to practise something they have learned at school while they’re having fun. Here are some of our top ideas.
Ideas for learning by stealth
- Playing games. There are lots of ways games can be helpful supporting children’s learning, whether it’s identifying the numbers on a card or counting their way round a board; practising vocabulary and letters by playing I Spy, or building their word power with Scrabble. For younger children, building things with bricks is a good way of developing maths skills through solving problems (‘How many red bricks?’ ‘How many blue bricks?’ and ‘How many altogether?’) and practising using the language of maths (‘Hmm, I wonder which is the longest brick?’ or ‘Could you pass me the cube over there’).
- Use technology together. Tablets and computers give us access to fascinating films, sites and games. The real benefit of these are when they aren’t just used a time-filler, but are something you can share with your child, talking and helping them to learn about something new.
- Real-life opportunities. This might be cooking (lots to learn about measures and ration from cake-baking – and you get cakes, so it’s a win-win), using money or writing letters or emails. Putting children in charge of planning and budgeting for something – a meal or picnic, a day trip out, even the family holiday if you’re going away. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to practise their English and maths skills in a real life context.
- Taking on a family learning challenge. Set the whole family the challenge of learning one new thing each. It might a particular times table, a particularly fiendish spelling, being able to draw a certain animal (horses are especially tricky), the number bonds to ten or one hundred, or learning to tell the time. Everyone in the family has something to learn and their job is to both learn their own and help everyone else out with their challenge. I apologise if this means you have to spend a week memorising the 37 times table or struggling to get the legs right on a horse.
… And reading!
Reading is one of the simplest and most educationally valuable ways a child can spend their time. Time spent reading is great for developing children’s reading skills, building their vocabulary and developing their general knowledge. It also helps to support their writing. And sometimes we need to give children time to do it so they can see it’s an enjoyable thing to do.
Whatever age and level of reading fluency your child is at, they’ll benefit from both reading aloud to you and hearing you read aloud to them. Reading to an adult is the most important thing children in the early stages of learning to read can do to develop their word reading.
Reading aloud to children is a great way of building their understanding, showing them what expressive reading sounds like and letting them enjoy a story. By both reading and listening, your child gets the best of both worlds, learning more than if they only read aloud to you or listened to you.
Aside from the educational benefits, regular story time can also be ten minutes of respite from hectic family life to curl up, read and talk together.
You can find lots of resources, including recommendations for great books and ideas for things to do with them on our Reading page. The National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life site is also full of resources and ideas.
So whether it’s helping with homework, sharing a book, making cakes or practising something tricky, being a parent who finds time to support their child with school and be engaged with their education will certainly give your child a head start on the path to success. And who knows, it might just be fun too.
This article was first published in 2017.