“It’s easy for parents to feel like there isn’t enough time to add more activities to an already packed schedule. But, there are many easy ways you can set the tone of making learning fun, ease the back-to-school transition, and foster literacy skills at home,” says Jon Reigelman, creative director of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL).
Reigelman suggests seeking out free resources, such as Camp Wonderopolis, a virtual camp and online learning tool available to all families, libraries, schools, and community organizations. It can be a great weekend or after-school activity for busy families that can be completed at any pace. The site features “Maker” projects that can be created with items found around the house, and virtual, collectible Wonder Cards that can be earned by interacting with the site.
Getting kids into an out-of-classroom learning habit now will set them up for future success. (Looking ahead to winter break or next summer, the program is also a great tool for combatting the learning loss common during vacations!) To register, visit camp.wonderopolis.org.
For younger kids, NCFL offers these great back-to-school tips for families.
• Choose a letter of the day. Look for the chosen letter in any printed materials you see — the newspaper, street signs, billboards, or advertisements. Make up a silly sentence using only words beginning with the letter of the day. (For example: Cats can cuddle. Dogs don’t drive. Amy always acts awake.)
• Singing songs can be a literacy activity. Try this twist: Sing short songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” several times, leaving off the last word each time until there are no words left. This activity always produces giggles from children and parents alike.
• Play “Guess Who.” Describe a cartoon character, celebrity or historical figure. Allow a guess after each detail is disclosed. Expand your child’s vocabulary by using unusual words, and then explain their meanings. Take turns. Listen carefully to your child’s descriptions, especially his or her choice of vocabulary. Encourage your child to paint a picture of the character with his or her words. At the end of the game, compliment your child on any unusual or new words used.
• Talk to your child about his or her day. Pretend to be a television reporter. Try questions like “what was the most surprising (curious, funny, eventful) thing that happened today?” You are giving your child opportunities to increase vocabulary, recall and reflect, and you are receiving a more detailed version of the time you spent apart. Be prepared to answer the same questions. You and your child will begin looking for events to report to each other.
The beginning of the school year can be hectic for everyone. Help kids get a leg up on their lessons by boosting literacy skills at home.