PROVEN WAYS TO HELP YOUR CHILD AT HOME
Parents and carers often ask us ‘What can I do to help my child at home?’ There are many simple things that you can do at home which will really help support your child’s learning in school. Our Help at home with Phonics, Reading, Writing and Maths pages provide specific ideas that you can try at home, including some really useful resources. However, there are range of other day-to-day things that you can easily do at home to support your child:
Ensure your child gets a good night’s sleep
When your child sleeps well, your child will be settled, happy and ready to learn. That’s because good-quality sleep helps your child concentrate, remember things, manage emotions and behave well. Getting enough sleep is also important for your child’s general health; it strengthens your child’s immune system and reduces the risk of infection and illness.
At 5-11 years, children need 9-11 hours sleep a night. For example, if your child wakes for school at 7 am and needs approximately 11 hours sleep per night, your child should be in bed before 8 pm.
Some children fall deeply asleep very quickly when they go to bed. Others sleep lightly, fidgeting and muttering for up to 20 minutes, before getting into deep sleep. Children have different kinds of sleep during the night. The first few hours of sleep are usually the deepest. Most dreams happen in the second half of the night.
A good night’s sleep is about getting to sleep, staying asleep and getting enough good-quality sleep. Here are ideas that can help your child get the sleep they need:
A bedtime routine is very important at this age. It helps your child wind down from the day.
For example, a child who normally goes to bed at 7.30 might have a bedtime routine that looks like this:
6.45 pm: put on pyjamas, brush teeth, go to the toilet.
7.15 pm: quiet time in the bedroom with a book and a bedtime story or quiet chat.
7.30 pm: goodnight and lights out.
Relaxing before bed
After a big day at school, your child might still be thinking about the day’s events and worries. If your child’s mind is still busy at bedtime, it can cause a restless night or bad dreams. You can help your child relax for sleep and sleep better by making time for calm, quiet activities in your child’s bedtime routine. For example, you could play gentle music, read a story together or encourage your child to have a bath before bed.
These habits might also help your child sleep better:
Turn computers, tablets and TV off an hour before bedtime.
Have a quiet and dimly lit place to sleep.
Get plenty of natural light during the day, especially in the morning.
Avoid caffeine in tea, coffee, sports drinks and chocolate, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
Be interested in and positive about school - celebrate your child’s successes, however small
Until your child is 18, school will most likely be one of the biggest elements in his or her life. Children spend approximately 200 days at school per year. That’s more than half of their short lives so far! We, as parents, often have so much on our minds and so little time, that it is easy to let our children just “get on with it”. However, your attitude and interest in your child’s education can have a huge impact on their feelings towards school.
Children whose parents show little or no interest in their education tend to have a negative view of school, and their happiness and performance in school can reflect this. They also tend to be anxious and have low self-esteem. In order to foster a sense of enthusiasm for school, here are some points to keep in mind:
Find the time
The 24 hours in a day doesn’t always seem enough to cover everything we need to do – most parents have demanding jobs, which means leaving for work early in the morning and getting home late in the afternoon or even early evening. Add that to the demands of taking care of a family and a home, and carving out time to sit and talk to your children seems nearly impossible. However, it is essential. It is incredibly important to take a few minutes to ask your child about their day at school, really listen to their answers and celebrate successes, stickers, certificates and so on.
Ask questions like:
“What did you learn at school today?”
“What was the best (or worst) thing about your day?”
If they’ve been doing quizzes or assessments, “Which questions do you feel great about? Which question, or questions, did you struggle with the most?”
Please remember, you might be replaceable at work, but it is impossible to replace you as a parent.
Mind your words
“What is wrong with this teacher?” “Why in the world do you need to learn this rubbish?” Do either of these statements sound familiar? If you say things like this around your child, chances are they will develop a negative attitude towards their teachers and/or schoolwork too. The future is unknown so encourage your child to learn everything they can!
Your child’s relationship with, and attitude towards, their teacher can make or break how they perform at school – at home please show how supportive you are of our teachers and school. If you have a problem or issue with the school or your child’s teacher, please don’t share it with you child – instead let us know in school so that we can fix the problem and ensure the relationship between your child and those teaching her/him stays really positive.
Teach your child to be resilient and understand that failure is a stepping stone to success.
Any skill requires a period of incompetence in order to get to being fully competent. In short: to get good at something you have to start out being not very good. What’s more, encouraging your child to increase their failure rate (‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…’) is the best way to increase their learning and develop their success in any field.
To do this children need to have two key traits: a little fear of failure and the resilience to push through when they fail the first few times. This will get them to the point where they become skilful.
What can you do to develop these key traits in your child?
Tell them of your own failures and how you overcame them
We may take it for granted that success requires hard work and overcoming of obstacles but this is not necessarily obvious to children. If you take time to explain your experience of a learning curve it will help them connect hard work with future rewards.
Don’t over praise
Explain early on in life that everyone has different talents and that not everyone can get a trophy, reward or sticker. Modern parents tend to over praise, which can lead to problems when children realise that they are not as ‘brilliant’ or ‘amazing’ as they thought they were. There is power in setting positive but realistic expectations.
Explain that getting good at something needs lots of practice
The best strategy for getting better at skills is deliberate practice. A good way to work on this is to divide it into three parts: practice, feedback and focus.
The first step to get better at something is to practice the skill. If you want to get better at writing, you need to write. If you want to get better at speaking a language, you need to speak.
Improving skills is a feedback loop: first you attempt something, then you notice how your attempt differed from the ideal, then you adjust what you did and attempt again. Tighter feedback makes the loop work faster, causing you to learn more rapidly. An absence of feedback can break the loop, causing you to learn slowly or not at all – it’s really important to give a child feedback when they are practicing a new skill.
Complex skills are made up of simpler parts. Writing is about research, storytelling, description and organization of ideas. Languages are vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and prosody. Drawing is about seeing relationships, pencil techniques, shading and shapes. You can accelerate improvement by getting your child to focus on the component skills separately.
Give your child safe access to the internet and social media
An ability to remember and recall facts and figures is an important part of academic success. The ability to research and find answers to questions is also as important as ever, if not more. The internet can be a powerful tool in learning this key skill.
While it’s important to manage children’s screen time and ensure they are browsing safely, this shouldn’t stop parents/carers pro-actively scheduling computer time for educational purposes: so-called ‘tech for good time’ can be highly beneficial.
Evidence shows that children with regular, education-focused internet access are at an advantage when it comes to assessments and exams. See: 'Children with internet access at home gain exam advantage': www.theguardian.com/education/2011/may/21/children-internet-access-exam-advantage
Following these easy steps can support you to keep you child safe when online:
1. Keep the computer in the living room
By having the computer in a public room of the house you can monitor what your children are doing and also more easily manage time limits.
2. Install a protection tool
It’s vital that you have child security settings installed to enable you to relax and let your child research to their heart’s content without fear of them coming across harmful material, including violent or sexual content. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky or BT, provide controls to help you filter or restrict content. You can install software packages, some are available for free, that can help you filter, restrict or monitor what your child can see online.
3. Visit the NSPCC’s ‘Keeping Children Safe Online’ website (Keeping children safe online | NSPCC) for a wealth of further information on keeping children safe online, age appropriate apps/sites and what to do if your child does encounter unsafe content on the web.
4. We don’t recommend primary aged children having access to social media. Our experience in school is that social media can negatively impact children’s wellbeing, affects their sleep, causes disputes, impacts on classroom relationships and results in lots of worries. However, some parents feel they want children to access social media as they get older. Where this is the case, we recommend ensuring that your child is only accessing age-appropriate content and that internet use (particularly messaging and taking/sharing images) is closely monitored. More advice is available from the NSPCC website (above) and the table below shows the age restrictions for various apps/sites.
Make learning an activity your child loves
Celebrate learning at home and celebrate the fact that learning in itself can be fun and rewarding. We don’t need to have a reason to be learning and everyone is learning all the time.
Learning is a hundred times harder if it is seen as a chore. Many of us had a mental block about maths at school and much of this was down to the fact that we told ourselves we didn’t like maths.
Research psychologists have proven time and time again that a good mood makes you smarter, more engaged, more creative and more willing to persist at a difficult task. So if you can encourage a child to enjoy learning, then the rest is easy... or at least easier. The key is to start out with a positive mind-set that is pre-programmed to succeed. When a child get stuck, explain to them that they don’t understand this YET but with patience, practice and a good teacher they will eventually understand and achieve.
Encourage your child to follow her/his passions and interests – whatever they may be
In school we aim for children to be well rounded individuals with empathy and an interest in the world around them. In a world of hyper-specialisation it isn’t important – or even possible – to be good at everything. It’s more important to be excellent at a few things. So, if your child shows a specific interest and takes a lot of joy in a certain topic at school, they will find it a lot easier to excel.
Make school subjects relevant to your child’s everyday life
In her book ‘How to do Maths so Your Children Can Too: The essential parents' guide’, leading maths teacher and author Naomi Sani encourages mums, dads and carers to ‘live maths as a family’, counting coins for bus fares and dividing slices of cake to bring division alive, practising weight and measure through cooking and baking together. Lego bricks can be a colourful and playful way to explore fractions. Everyday objects can be put into groups and mathematically sorted (smallest to largest; into groups of 2,3, 4 etc etc).
When travelling, involve your child with map reading (geography), ask them to help with finding the translation of a word on your iPad (French, Spanish… even Mandarin)! Ever tried making homemade modelling clay or slime? This is science in the real world. Tell them it is chemistry. Or dip into biology when they bump and bruise their knee. You can also tell your children how much what you have learned (at school, and elsewhere) has been useful in your home life and in your jobs.
Encourage lots of play
Children work very hard at school and after a busy day, everybody needs some down-time. Children learn through play as much as through structured lessons. Encourage your child to spend plenty of time playing – spending time exploring outdoors, doing something that needs imagination, spending time alone and alongside other children, and limiting your child’s online time will really help your child’s learning and development.
If you can turn learning into a game, children, who are naturally hard-wired to play, will respond and learn much more quickly. An entire area of psychology has developed to study this field. It’s called gamification, and the term is used to describe the action of turning something into a game in order to improve engagement.
Playing games such as Scrabble and Boggle are widely recognised as having benefits for literacy rates. Doing games such as jigsaws and Kerplunk helps children to develop pattern spotting (a key maths skill), fosters perseverance and resilience and supports fine motor skills.
Help you child to develop switching-off and relaxation techniques
Focus and concentration can be one of the biggest barriers to success in school. Teaching your child to shut down can be vital in improving their ability to switch on at the right times. Active relaxation, simple breathing exercises or even basic meditation can have a powerful impact on the ability to learn. Switching off in front of TV may seem relaxing for your child (and there’s nothing wrong with watching a bit of TV!) but it is far better to learn the skill to calm your mind on its own. Having a go at some basic meditation, child yoga or even just sitting having quiet time to read, do some colouring or look at nature can all help children to relax and increase their focus.
Cosmic Kids Yoga (Cosmic Kids Yoga - YouTube) is a great place to start to find activities for mindfulness and relaxation at home.