The secret to preparing children for academic success is much simpler than we think. In an age of apps, tools, programmes and resources promising early and advanced academic development, parents are perhaps more confused than ever as to the best way to support their child’s growth and education at home. So what should parents and caregivers do to set the stage for life-long learning? – Carol Bennett
It is difficult for some parents to leave their children to independently attempt to problem solve, master a new skill or step out on their own to be socially independent. Watching a little one attempt to feed themselves with a utensil, or put on their shoes without help is excruciating for some parents. Parents, along with Nannies and grandparents, often swoop in and save the child. This deprives the child of very important opportunities to build independence and find out who they are as a person and what they are capable of.
How? Allow children to make attempts to develop new skills and try out new situations while offering them only the minimum level of support they require to avoid an excess of frustration, while helping the child confidently face new tasks and situations.
Resilience is such an important quality. As much as parents would like to insulate their children from the challenges and heartaches life will bring, this is an impossible task.
This will encourage your child to attempt difficult tasks, face failure and get back up after a scary fall. Resilient children are more likely to not give up when they face a challenge that parents know they can overcome.
Leaving unscheduled time in your child’s day where the child can play freely, using his/her imagination and follow personal interests is very important.
Parents often feel that in order to give their child the best headstart, they must involve them in numerous activities. The day is spent chauffeuring the child from karate to music lessons to football to tennis and swimming, tutoring, photography for beginners, yoga, astronomy club and on and on. While engaging in structured extra-curricular activities is very important, parents must be very mindful of not exhausting their children. It is sadly oxymoronic that children are often deprived of their childhood in an effort to “give them a better childhood!”
Free time in the child’s day lends them the opportunity to develop their social skills, language and physical development. Children learn through play, so enabling the child to develop skills in every area is critical. Sensory play is particularly important.
Academic and work environments in the child’s later life will demand that they manage their time independently. Therefore, managing their own time in their own way is an important life skill.
The single most important thing a parent can do to help facilitate their child’s growth and development is much more simple than one would think.
University of Kansas Psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley conducted a study in the 1980s which looked at language use of parents with their children from the different socio-economic sectors. They found that, in a one hour time span, parents on welfare spoke 1,530 less words to their child than parents who were in the upper-socio-economic class. This study was especially important to help address the widening academic performance gap.
How to ensure a language-rich environment for your child:
For ease of accessibility to quality children’s books, Cayman’s Public Libraries have a wonderful selection which families can borrow free of cost. Thrift shops, such as the Humane Society Book Loft also have gently used books at hugely discounted prices.
It is rare to find a family without an electronic device of some sort– whether a television, tablet or smart phone. Many a megabit is filled with ‘educational’ apps, promising parents early academic development; however, screentime must be limited.
Parents should always ensure that the use of technology does not affect other areas of the child’s life such as sleep, interpersonal interactions and physical activity.
In those very important early years, parents are their children’s first teachers: they read and count together, cook and explore.
When a young child begins formal school, the parent’s job is to show the child how school can extend the learning they began together at home, and how exciting and meaningful this learning can be. As preschoolers grow and begin school, parents then become their children’s learning coaches. Through guidance and reminders, parents help their children organise their time and support their desire to learn new things both in and out of school.
Many teachers encourage parents to go over what their young children are learning in a non-pressured way and to practise what they may need extra assistance with. This may mean going over skills being worked on at school depending on the needs and learning level of the child, e.g. basic numeracy and literacy skills.
“There may be times to review, but don’t take on the role of drill master,” adds Diane Levin, Ph.D. “And when you do review it should feel as if your child wants to be a part of the practice.”
Read aloud regularly, even to older kids. If your child is a reluctant reader, reading aloud will expose your child to the structure and vocabulary of good literature and work to foster your child’s future interest in reading.
“Reading the first two chapters of a book together can help, because these are often the toughest in terms of plot,” notes Susan Becker, M. Ed. “Also try alternating: you read one chapter aloud, she reads another to herself. And let kids pick the books they like. Book series are great for reluctant readers.”
For the parent who feels as if they are lost, or not doing all they could to support their child’s development, take heart, there is help out there: The Family Resource Centre has trained professionals who can offer guidance free of charge. Just remember, there are no gimmicks nor is a house full of expensive toys required:
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