Help Your Kids Succeed in School This Year
Sheila Wray-Gregoire .
A great teacher can be transformational in a child's life, but those with the greatest influence for helping children succeed at school this year won't be employees of School Boards. They'll be parents.
What can you do to launch your children well this new school year? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Get them ready to learn -- and that means they must be well rested. Too many kids do not get enough sleep. In fact, lack of sleep has been heavily linked to ADD and a host of other learning difficulties. Children under the age of thirteen need, on average, 10-11 hours of sleep a night. Teens need more than we think, too--up to nine hours.
To make teens sleep, turn off the Wi-Fi at 10:30 every night, and put all phones on the charger in a central place. To help younger kids sleep, enforce a bedtime, which means enforcing a bedtime routine. Start getting kids ready for bed much earlier than they need to be asleep. Read them a story. Give them a bath. Help them to relax.
One reason so many kids don't sleep well is because they've overscheduled. If kids are in activities until 8:00 several nights a week, it's hard to get a decent night's sleep. Parents' work schedules often impede sleep, too. If a parent isn't home until 7:30 or 8, chances are that parent wants to spend time with the kids before they turn in. Resist the urge to keep kids up, and find ways to connect with them at other times of day.
2. Encourage imaginative play. Most kids today play primarily with technology—on devices and phones, on video games, or on computers. Yet these are largely passive modes of entertainment. Even video games, which arguably are more interactive, don't require imagination in the same way as traditional play did.
Take some time after dinner every day and turn all devices off. Then limit the kids' toys. Kids don't need a lot to play with: they can build forts with blankets; they can construct things out of pots and pans; they can create homes for dolls out of towels. Boredom is the mother of invention. Encourage more hands-on toys, too, like Lego or puzzles or that teach spatial ability.
3. Make reading a central part of your home. Read every night to the kids before they go to bed. For long car trips listen to books on CD or iPod. Enforce a strict bedtime--but tell kids they can stay up half an hour longer if they're reading or looking at books. Kids may even get in the habit of always needing a good book to help them get to sleep!
4. Finally, make learning a natural part of a child's life. When you're in the grocery store, tell them "we're going on a hunt for the letter B", and find all the things that start with the B-uh sound. (Broccoli? Bread? Beans? What about Pancake Mix? See if they can tell the difference!). You can do this with numbers, too. When you're at Tim Horton's, ask them to figure out the change. If that would take too long, just start explaining yourself. "I need thirty-five cents. That means a quarter and a dime, because a quarter is twenty-five cents and a dime is ten cents!"
Kids are born to be little sponges. They take everything in, and they love learning, because it helps them make sense of the world. So talk about everything you're doing. Show them patterns. And then give them time to absorb all of that with some down time to play and some down time to sleep. Do that, and chances are your kids will do very well this year.
Syndicated columnist, popular blogger and speaker, and award-winning author Sheila Wray Gregoire loves encouraging women to grow in their relationships, both with God and with their husbands, kids, and friends. The author of seven books, including How Big Is Your Umbrella, Sheila mixes humor and real-life stories to help women deal with the messy problems many of us face. She is the 2012 winner of the top literary prize for Canadian Christian books for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and her blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, is one of the top 25 Mom blogs on the web. Visit Sheila’s website: SheilaWrayGregoire.com