From This Side of the Desk: Parents, help your child succeed in school

By Roxanne Drury

The beginning of the year is a great time to begin preparing your young child for preschool. As a teacher, I always loved it when a child came to their first day of preschool ready to sit, and ready to learn. There are things parents can do early on to help their child have a successful lifetime school career. I think you’ll be surprised at just how simple and commonplace these ideas are. So let’s dive in.

There are many articles about the keys to success. Some say it is persistence, others say it is drive or discipline. Still others say it is all in who you know. Well, it kind of depends on what the goal is. In this case, the goal is for your child to be ready and eager to learn in a school setting. This comes with time and practice. To my way of thinking a parent’s key to success in developing a ready eager learner is INTENTIONALITY.

Being intentional about what you say, do, invite your child into, allow them to do, and show your child will develop an eagerness to learn new things. Having an eagerness to learn is the very beginning of what makes or breaks a child’s enthusiasm in the classroom.

But wait…I want my child to be successful in school, how in the world do I do that?  Hang on to your hat, it’s coming.

Here are 5 easy things you can do every day in your home:

1. Read to your child daily. Reading a book or two daily is key. If they ask for more, please make the time to read more. Reading introduces your child to the written word. Point to the pictures. Point to some or all of the words as you are reading them. This helps your child put what they are seeing on the paper and what you are saying together. Talk about the pictures. Make comments, ask questions: “Oh man, that must have been fun!” “WOW, what do you think is going to happen?” Let them turn the pages. This involves the child in the process of reading a book. Keep a few books in your car for drive time. Encourage your child to look at the pictures and if the book is very familiar, ask them to tell you the story.

2. Allow your child to watch you write something down daily. Allow your child to watch you write something on a piece of paper every day. For example, as you make your grocery list, say the word milk, and write the word milk on a piece of paper, saying the letters M I L K. Again, this helps your child realize that the written word and what we say are connected. Ask your child, “What else do we need?” Invite them into the process of making a list. Bananas. Write the word bananas and say the letters. Saying the letters you are writing is one more intentional way to introduce your child to the alphabet. Will this take longer? Yes! But is it worth it? Yes!

3. Allow/encourage your child to write or draw something daily. Taking crayons to paper daily feeds your child’s creativity as well as their cognitive mind. Using the example of the grocery list in #2: Give your child a piece of paper and have them pretend to write their own list. As you write milk, encourage them to scribble milk, and so on. An idea of how to make this item intentional is set aside time right after lunch for your child to draw, color, or write something. Use a coloring book to encourage your child to trace the lines of the picture and then color it. When praising their creation, be specific. For example, saying “You really worked hard on that picture” rather than “Good job” speaks directly to the child and what they have accomplished. All of this will be hard brain work for your child and they will most likely be ready for a nap following this kind of activity. Bonus!

4. Play, play, play, daily. Kids learn through play. Puzzles and building blocks of any kind are two of the best toys you can provide for your child. They develop eye-hand coordination, logical skills, and math skills, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment for completing a task. Plus these kinds of playthings allow the opportunity to work with another person, which builds social skills. Which leads us to #5.

5. Work on social skills daily. Intentionally make time to learn how to share, and take turns. Have a tea party and share the cookies. Play a board game to help your child learn to take turns. Just saying the words, “It’s your turn; now it is my turn” as you pass the food around the table, goes a long way to helping your child have an understanding of the rightness of taking turns. It becomes a natural part of their world.

Practicing problem-solving skills is another way to help your child learn to think for themselves. An example might be: “Oh no, it is raining outside. We don’t want our feet to get wet. What should we do?” Allow the child to come up with the answer – wear our boots. That’s problem-solving.

Another very valuable skill is the ability to follow directions. Depending on the age of the child, practice giving directions in a fun, engaging way. When it’s time to pick up toys, make it a game. Allow your child to help you with folding the laundry by handing them their stack of pajamas and asking them to put them on their bed. As your child gets older and more proficient you can increase the number of directions you give, such as, “Put your pajamas on your bed and bring me your favorite book to read.”

These are intentional ways you can help your child to be successful in school. As in everything, it will take consistency to make a difference in your child’s readiness and success. But it is so worth it. From this side of the desk, I have found in my years of teaching that those students who were at the top of the class in reading, science, and math had parents who consistently read to their child and encouraged them in these 5 areas. Make it fun and exciting and it is a win/win all around.

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