There are many ways for parents to support their children’s learning at home. The ideas below provide interesting, hands-on ways for families to engage in learning activities related to literacy, mathematics, science, and technology.
Literacy activities can start at home well before a child can read and write. For example, parents can:
- Have materials with words and letters around the house to expose children to language (e.g. newspapers, magazines, mugs, posters)
- Suggest pretend play writing activities – like making a shopping list or a card – with scribbles or a few letters/words that a child knows to show children that writing has a purpose
- Talk about what they are reading to show children that reading is an important part of their life
- Give gifts related to reading and writing (e.g. books, pens, notepads)
But the most important thing that a parent can to do support their child’s literacy is to READ with their children. Studies have shown that children whose parents read aloud to them demonstrate increased vocabulary, school success and strong language skills (reference: http://www.reachoutandread.org/why-we-work/importance-of-reading-aloud/).
For parents looking for children’s literature, there are many resources. Children should be exposed to a wide variety of written material – rhyme and prose, fiction and non-fiction, books and magazines.
The Reading Rockets website has book lists with age appropriate reading lists. Parents can choose books by theme and type of book. The site is also filled with suggestions of ways for parents to help their children with reading and activities related to books and topics.
Parents can also look for Caldecott and Newberry award winners, given to the most distinguished children’s each year. Some favorite picture book authors include Eric Carle, Julia Donaldson and Anushka Ravishankar. Indian publishers like Tara Books and Tulika Books offer high-quality, reasonably priced children’s books, with some options in Indian languages. Subscriptions to children’s magazines – like Highlights and National Geographic Young Explorer – are excellent supplements to books.
Many cities have private children’s libraries where for a modest fee; children can choose books that interest them. Parents can also arrange book swaps with friends to try out new books and share their favorites with others.
Resources for supplementing children’s science education range from local activities to informative websites.
Young children best experience science through sensory learning – by seeing, hearing and doing. Parents should look for local resources – such as zoos, museums or botanic gardens. A trip to a zoo is a great introduction to animals and their habitats. A visit to a park can teach children about trees, plants and flowers. A science museum demonstrates scientific principles. A historical site shows how things change over time. Even a walk around a neighborhood can show children that there are opportunities for learning all around them.
Parents can also help their children to conduct science experiments at home. There are many easy science experiments to do with young children, such as these featured on the Kids Activity Blog and PBS.
Online videos are a way to expose children to things beyond their local environment. National Geographic Kids has videos, photos and kid-friendly information about plants and animals around the world. The Kid should see this curates videos across topics to spark children’s curiosity.
Board games and card games are a great way to engage math skills in a fun way. While playing games like the following, children practice grouping, matching, early geometry skills, and number recognition and relationships. Recommended family games include:
- Uno – knowledge of colors and numbers, pattern recognition
- Memory – logic and planning, concentration
- Jenga – spatial relationships, motor skills
- Dominoes – counting, pattern recognition
- Blokus – shapes, spatial relationships
In addition to building their math skills, board games teach children the important life skills of good sportsmanship, patience, focus and persistence. They also practice following rules.
Another way for families to engage in hands-on math practice is to cook together using a recipe. Children learn about temperature, volume, counting and measuring. By using measuring spoons and cups, they are introduced to fractions. Pick a favorite family recipe to share with a child. Find a new recipe together online. Or try these kid-friendly quick and easy recipes from Sesame Street.
For more traditional math practice on key concepts, an excellent online resource is Khan Academy. An instructional video demonstrates a concept – such as ‘counting’ or ‘addition’ – and then offers practice problems. Parents can track the progress of their children.
As technology becomes more and more a part of children’s lives, parents are the gatekeepers in choosing what and when children are watching and playing. With new games, apps, movies and TV shoes being released each day, it can be difficult for parents to find educational options for their children. Common Sense Media is a helpful resource that provides reviews and age-based ratings for children’s movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music. It features helpful lists like Best Apps for Learning Programming and Coding and an Essential Apps Guide for different devices.