Whether it’s hiring a tutor or reading at home for at least 20 minutes a day, parents are always willing to go the extra mile to help their kids succeed in school. But in addition to the obvious things parents already do to help, there are other easy things parents can do at home to help them get ahead at school.
1 Play games together
“Playing games with your kids is a great way to connect after a long day at work and school,” says Jennifer Kelly, executive director of Metropolitan Schoolhouse in Chicago. “It also reinforces important social skills such as taking turns, following directions and sportsmanship.”
2 Share highs and lows of the day
“How many times do we ask our kids how their day was and their response is ‘good’?” Kelly says. “Taking a couple minutes out of your evening to share the highs and lows of your day is a great way to start a conversation about your child’s day and let them know about yours, too. This also serves as a key moment to praise, set goals and problem-solve with your child.”
3 Eat dinner together
“No matter what time you sit down or how much your child eats, eat dinner together as a whole family,” says Laura Mraz, owner and CEO of Eyas Landing and Blue Bird Day School, both in Chicago. “Think of dinner as a time to socialize and connect with your family, rather than the time to ensure that they are eating all their food groups.”
4 Make lists
“Involving your child in making household lists supports critical executive function skills,” Kelly says. “Ask your child to help make a grocery list, a chore list or a to-do list for an upcoming event. This will not only help set up a foundation for independence, but also encourage your child to share in household responsibilities.”
5 Incorporate learning into everyday activities
For younger kids, this might mean going on a shape hunt or using everyday items to create patterns and sorting opportunities, says Lynne Lightbody, reading specialist for Immaculate Conception Grade School in Elmhurst.
For middle schoolers, that might mean discussing geometry while looking at architecture or letting them help you balance your checkbook.
“We work closely with our parents to encourage the desire to learn new things within their children,” she says. “Encourage your child to further explore topics in which they are interested. Point your (middle school) children towards adults who may professionally be tied to their areas of interest.”
6 Let them help with food prep
“Take a piece of the Montessori (philosophy) home with you by incorporating your child’s innate desire to help into your family’s meal preparation,” says Austyn Brickler, head of school for Guidepost Montessori in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.
“One of the core elements of the Montessori curriculum for young children involves activities which we refer to as ‘practical life works.’ These activities are designed to allow the child to take ownership of himself and practice elements of self-care.”
7 Exercise together
“There is nothing like a long walk along the lake or sprints in the park, whether with a toddler or a teen, to improve the mood of the entire family. Active families are happy families,” Mraz says.
“Research in the field of child development suggests that children learn best when they are able to use their whole brain and body to acquire new skills,” Mraz says. “We are telling our kids that we believe in self-care, whole body learning and preparing their bodies to fully access new learning opportunities at school.”
8 Choose your battles
“I often tell parents to let go of power struggles when they are unnecessary and to choose the best times to teach valuable lessons,” Mraz says. “If your child is hungry or not feeling well, ease up on some — but not all — of your expectations.”