In many ways, families can and do help children succeed in school and at home. There are no ‘special’ skills that parents must possess, as they are grounded in the nature of being a parent and a role model for children. The special skills that parents possess are learned along the journey called, ‘parenting’. Things already present in the home can provide the inspiration for new strategies in the kinds of help families give. All that’s needed is a little creativity and the capacity to broaden the way we see or do things. Mustn’t forget patience. Parents need an abundance of patience.
We often think children aren’t paying attention to the adults in their lives, but they are always watching and learning, always interpreting the messages they receive. Parents are role models, at all times, for their children. You, as a parent, have to be hyper-aware of what you do and say, how you cope and manage stress, and navigate relationships in all aspects of your lives.
Children learn at anytime and anywhere. Some activities we take for granted can be purposefully framed as teaching tools, where learning is active and fun. Children can be engaged without realizing that learning is taking place. They can learn life lessons, academic content, interpersonal and social-emotional skills.
Below are some suggested activities to inspire parents and encourage their children to be and do their absolute best. There are 31 days in the longest calendar months. Here are activities to do with your child every one of those days.
- Talk to your child about your expectations. Include the tasks and responsibilities children have at home and in school. Always communicate high expectations to your child, because it motivates your child to always expect more from themselves. Just make sure expectations are realistic.
- Ask your child to tally the number of servings of fruits and veggies your family eats each day. If one or two servings, then consider adding more to your family’s diet. Try new varieties of fruits and vegetables at home. Expand your child/family’s palette.
- If your child visits a friend’s home, make sure an adult will be present for supervision and support. Teach politeness, proper etiquette, and respectful attitudes and behavior. Lay down the ground rules of engagement. Practice at home through some role-play. Teach your child to recognize danger, the actions to take and when to dial 911, as well.
- Praise your child for times such as when she/he studies hard unprompted . Catch them in their good moments. Praise your child’s behaviors. A child is never bad; their attitudes and behaviors may be. When giving praise, address the behavior, not the character of your child.
- Don’t use screen time as a reward or a punishment. Doing so will make this seem more important to your child.
- Practice the art of compromise with your child. Great foundation of negotiation skills. Pick something you are flexible on to compromise with your child.
- Make a collage with your child using photos taken of your child this year or based on a theme.
- Have and help your child research possible future careers. It is never too early to explore the world of careers and help your child discover their strengths and talents. They get to make the connection between work and education and imagining how they belong in society. For less exposed and most disadvantaged children, making these connections is critical to school and life success.
- Ask your child to explain his or her homework assignment to you. This gives your child more clarity and comprehension of the work she/he was tasked with completing.
- Give your child a coupon, good for one-on-one time together. Coupons can be used as incentives and rewards. In this instance, coupons serve as your assurance that when your child needs you, you will be there for them. It is especially helpful when there is more than one child in the home. It is a guarantee that your time will not be shared; each child will have your undivided attention.
- Place a chalkboard somewhere in your home.[There is also a special paint that can transform any wall into a chalkboard.] Chalkboards are perfect places to practice math and spelling/vocabulary. Whiteboards are good also.
- When helping your child with homework, maintain a sense of confidence in your child. Communicate to them that you believe they can ‘do it’. Encourage your child to work through frustration, by never giving up, but persevering until they reach the finished line.
- Watch the news with your child[age appropriately]. Have your child select one news story and compare it with a news story in print.
- Talk with your child about relationships-romantic ones. Share your values and standards. A Q & A between you and your child allows opportunities to build interpersonal skills and explore the dynamics of relationships in their different forms.
- Listen to your child’s favorite music. Tell your child what you hear and what bothers you about it and what you may like about it. Talk about the lyrics and the messages they may send. Get your child’s interpretation of the music. What we see and hear may not be the same as your child. Just stay in the loop.
- With your child, think of as many nicknames for cities and/or states in the U.S.[Chicago-the Windy City; Denver-Mile High City; New York- the Big Apple, etc…]
- Point out an example of prejudice to your child. Talk about intolerance with your child, explaining what prejudice is and how it may manifest. Talk about the effect on people’s lives.
- Let your child stay up in bed an extra hour, spent reading-not for watching TV or a device. This is, of course, when there is no school the next day.
- Turn off the TV for an entire day. Read, play, exercise and engage in real conversations. All are options as alternatives to the TV screen. Remind children and yourself that there are many great activities to participate in. Encourage outdoor play or indoor exercise. Put a puzzle together. Aim for ‘togetherness’ time in different ways.
- Don’t allow devices at the table during mealtime. No vibrate mode, texting, talking or browsing. This is family time and everyone is to be present and included in conversations.
- Ask your child, “What do you wish we could do differently at home”? Talk to your child and leave yourself open to suggestions. Your child is taking the lead in the conversation. Your job is to ask questions and listen.
- When creating rules at home, have your children there with you, included and involved in the process. There’s more ownership when they are included, rather than just random assignment of chores or unexplained rules[the ‘why’].
- Learn some sign language. Simple gestures can be picked up and used by the family. It’s fun and learning all at once. Learn a few words in Spanish, French, etc…
- When enforcing your rules, be firm, consistent and fair. Let the punishment fit the child and the severity of the ‘damage’. Before disciplining your child, ensure that your child understands the rule that was broken and the reasons for the rule itself. With some children, all you need to do is give them a certain look of disappointment, and they will get it. No need for harsh discipline. The point of discipline is to make the child understand what was done and how it may place someone or themselves at harm. Spanking a child is not necessary and doesn’t prevent ‘bad’ behaviors from recurring. Try to avoid doing so. Control your anger and speak calmly with your child. Also, never allow your words to make a child feel they are ‘bad’ people; their behavior was bad. Show them confidence that they will obey rules going forward, acknowledging that people make mistakes.
- Talk about your listening skills together and ask how each can be improved. Effective communication and meaningful conversations require active listening, not only talking.
- Tell your child a story about yourself at their age. It reminds you of your growing years and informs your child that you, too, may have had similar experiences. Stories foster a connection between your child and yourself.
- Have each family member prepare a different part of a planned meal[age-appropriate tasks]. After your meal is ready to be served, enjoy it together as a family.
- Together with your child, look around the home and identify the items you see[such as stove, sink, television, table, chairs….] No matter how empty or full your house, there will be items to identify. Pronounce each word. Point out letters in each name….with younger children. At older ages, you can create flash cards containing names of objects you’ve identified. After your child has named each item, take out a few of the flash cards and ask which word matches the identified item you are now pointing to. After viewing the words, put the card away and ask your child to spell those particular words. There are endless strategies you can use at home.
- Make history come alive. Pick an event or a famous person in history, preferably in this country’s history. If found in your child’s text book, read that version first. Then search to find out more information. Try typing a name into your browser or Google search box. If correct, that name or event will appear multiple times. Look to sources that detail life at that time. Where did they live? How did they live? What kind of society was it? In this era where people choose to be ‘woke’, African-American history is important. Search for black people’s life stories. Then, have a discussion with your child, seeking to answer any new and deeper questions that may arise.
- Trace your family’s history. Ask grandparents and others who have some useful information. Both you and your child will be more informed, grounded in self-knowledge and inspired by the fact that you are both alive. Talk about the resilience and strength of your ancestors and others of similar background. Examine their past challenges and their hopes for the future. Researching in this way forms the foundation of what’s taught in the classroom, with insights beyond just the texts. Learn real relevant history-based stories which all impact and influence lives today. Self-knowledge is a most powerful affirmation.
- Read, read, read. Take time to indulge yourself in reading activities. Read a novel or the daily news paper. Let your children see you reading, engrossed in the content. Read with your child as often as possible. Visit your local library and let your child pick out at least one book of interest to him/her. Pick one for yourself. At home, have a shared reading time in a quiet and comfortable spot. Talk about the books-the characters and the plot after each session.
Parents have the tools and the capacity to support their children’s classroom learning, nurture their natural curiosity, and develop critical thinking skills. Children don’t always ‘listen’ to adults, as is natural in the developmental process, but they are always watching. Why not do things together with your child instead of being a spectator or taskmaster? Being deliberate and consistent, you can maintain deep connections throughout the grades, even during the most challenging adolescent years. Support your child and help them do well in school, at home, the community and on to college or career.
Feel free to contribute your own ideas for parent-child activities in the comments.