Our kids are always watching us. They know what we like and dislike. It is easy for them to see when we are engaged and when we are disinterested. Often they mimic the best and worst things we do. As parents, there is nothing more important to our children’s academic growth and development than our encouragement. Our positive attitude and interest in what our kids are learning goes a long way. If we want to raise kids who are full of wonder and curiosity, and who have the skills and abilities to learn new things and solve problems, there are many things we can do. What follows are just a few ideas about how to extend learning at home.
- Encourage Positive Screen Time: Kids become easily addicted to video games, so it is essential to monitor their television, video game, and Internet use. Be vigilant. There are educational games and programs that are bothfun and academically helpful, while others games can be violent, scary, or even destructive.
- Be Creative: Everyday activities can lead to learning experiences. Preparing food and cooking, for example, require obvious skills like following directions and taking measurements. However, dealing with food can also lead to scientific questions. Why does the bread or cake rise? How do you grow seedless grapes if plants grow from seeds? Why is toast sweeter than bread? You do not need to know the answers, but you can google them with your kids. Make sure to encourage your children’s questions, as well as asking your own.
- Read, Read, Read! Read with your children, and encourage them to read alone and to read with you. Your kids can even read to their pets or to stuffed animals. Read your books , magazines, and newspaper articles in front of your kids. Talk about how the material you read makes you think and feel, and ask your children questions about what they are reading. Try to encourage your children to discuss their feelings as well as their ideas. You can also elicit deep strategic reading skills by asking questions like: Do you think what happened was fair or justified, and why? How might you have handled that situation differently, and why? What do you think might happen next, and why? And remember, older kids also enjoy being read to. Parents tend to read to young children but often give this up when their children get older.
There is no substitute for the encouragement you can give your children by actively engaging in conversations about what they are learning, what they are curious about, and what questions they have. Your children will take cues from you. Even if they resist talking to you about what they are learning in school, listen carefully for their questions. Your attitude is the one that is the most influential in their lives. So show your children that you are a lifelong learner and encourage their wonder and curiosity.