It’s September and for most the first day of the new term. We have been thinking a lot about school this year as one of us has a daughter who is starting school and the other has one starting next year. Being a teacher, learning is never far from my mind and what has shocked me is how easy it is to build it into everyday life and the effect it has already had on my daughters. Here I have put together 15 activities that you can use with your little one so that they can make the most of their education.
What do your children need to know?
The expectations for our children at school are greater than ever. By the end of their first year they now need to do things like; counting forward and backward to 20, counting in fives and twos, naming 2D and 3D shapes and describing their properties and comparing numbers and quantities. In writing children are expected to recognise and write the letters of the alphabet, hold a pencil correctly, write simple words correctly, starting to write in sentences. I
n reading children need to be able to know all their letter sounds and the sounds groups of letters make, read simple words and know that stories have a beginning, middle, and end.
This is a lot to expect our children to do and we have two options. We can either moan that expectations are now too high or we can help them.
It is well established that children learn best through play and there is no one they love to play with more than mum and dad. Here are a few activities that you can do with your children that will help them in the first year at school. It will help promote good learning behaviors, a clear routine and establish learning as fun.
There are loads of things you can do with your children that will help them progress at school without taking away their playing time. In fact, all of these involve parental involvement ensure quality family time.
Read with your children every day. This is a well know one but it is true that little and often is the best way to improve reading. And reading with mum or dad is a great way to ensure everyone enjoys it.
Don’t be afraid to read the same book again and again. Each time you do keep pointing out the words to help your child recognise what they look like.
Play simple word games like I-Spy. We started off with spying different colours before moving on to initial letter sounds. This game is great as you can play it when walking, driving or just around the house.
Model letters using a variety of materials, eg sand, play-doh, lego, paper, paints. Letter don’t just need to be made using a paper and pen.
Threading beads – in fact, any thing that is fiddly and needs your child to use their fine motor skills will help improve their control of the pencil.
Insist your child writes using the correct pencil grip. Once they have practiced using it a few times it will start to become second nature.
Listen to story tapes in the car. Allow your child to hear a variety of different stories, even if it is using story apps on your phone.
Get your child to start to guess what is going to happen. Predicating the ending to stories can create some interesting conversations.
Count with your child, stairs, steps, cars, shopping. In fact, it really doesn’t matter when or where you count. At the moment I am counting backward from 20, slowly, when I clean my daughter’s teeth.
Junk modeling (using cereal boxes, egg boxes, milk cartons etc to build with) allows your child to be creative and gets them used to different shapes and their properties.
Play games that use counting eg what’s the time Mr. Wolf, Hide and Seek. These games encourage children to count for themselves and gives them a purpose for it.
Dot to dot – create your own dot to dots with your children. These might only be patterns, to begin with but as they become more confident with the idea their pictures will become more ambitious.
Draw treasure maps around your home or garden. This can be a great rainy day activity. Hide something in your lounge, draw a treasure map and ask your child to find it. As your child becomes more familiar with the concept they might be able to draw the map and place the object’s location on it.
A good one for summer is playing with different containers in water. Filling up different containers and comparing them and arranging them in to most to least etc.
Starting looking at the clock and using it with your child. Using times that don’t change is a good one to introduce the concept of time. Over the summer when we have gone out for the day ice cream time is always 2 o’clock. Not surprisingly our 3 years old now knows what 2 o’clock looks like!
Teachers are there to teach our children but their first and primary teacher should always be their parents. It is a big responsibility that most of us never have any training for. However, it is not one that should be taken lightly. Incorporating family time into learning time can mean that no one feels like they are learning as all they are doing is playing as a family!