Activities I -- Helping Your Child Succeed in School

What follows are activities that you can do with your child to help build the skills, attitudes and behaviors needed for school success. There is no one "right" way to do the activities. You should make changes and shorten or lengthen them to suit your child's attention span. You might want to use them as a starting point for some activities of your own. If you don't have some of the resources listed for an activity, remember that most public libraries offer free use of books, magazines, videos, computers and other services. Other things that you might need for these activities are not expensive.

Age levels for the activities are indicated at the start of each activity:

Childlike drawing of of a happy child jumping up into the air while a mother watches with a smile.

Ages 5-7
Ages 7-9
Ages 9-11

Keep in mind, however, that children don't always learn the same things at the same rate. You are the best judge of what your child may be ready to try, so use the age levels as guides as your child learns and grows, not as hard and fast rules. For example, an activity listed for children ages 7-9 may work well with your 5-year-old. On the other hand, the same activity may not interest your child until he is 9 or 10.

As a parent, you can help your child want to learn in a way no one else can. That desire to learn is a key to your child's later success. Enjoyment is important! So, if you and your child don't enjoy one activity, move on to another. You can always return to any activity later on.

Can You Top This?

For children ages 5 to 7

Learning to take turns helps your child build spoken language skills as well as learn to work with others.

Working with others, listening to what they say and making good contributions are all valuable in helping children to complete school projects.

What to Do

  • With your child, make up a story for the two of you to tell together, taking turns saying one sentence at a time.

    • Begin by deciding on a topic, such as pirates.
    • Say the first sentence: "Once upon a time a pirate lived in . . ."
    • Continue taking turns with your child making up and telling parts of the story until you decide to end it—maybe after eight or ten sentences.

  • Take turns beginning and finishing a story. Ask other family members and friends to join in.

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For children ages 5 to 7

Listening to and giving directions helps your child to sharpen listening and speaking skills.

What You Need

  • Any small object, such as a ball or a photograph
  • Objects that can make noise, such as keys, water glasses, spoons and decks of cards

What to Do

    For success in school, children need to learn to listen carefully, to see and hear details and to follow and give clear directions.
  • Hide a small object. Give your child directions to find it such as, "Take five steps straight ahead. Turn right. Keep the lamp to your left. Bend down and look to the right." Next, have your child hide the object and give you directions to find it.

  • Have your child close his eyes. Use something to make a sound, such as rattling your keys, tapping a spoon against a glass or riffling a deck of cards). Ask your child to guess what's making the sound.

  • Clap your hands to tap out a rhythm. Have your child listen and then clap that same rhythm back to you. Make the rhythms harder as he catches on.

  • Take a walk with your child. Find a place to sit for a few minutes and both close your eyes for 30 seconds or so. Tell each other what you hear: a baby crying, an airplane, a bird singing, cars on the street, leaves rustling.

  • Take a walk with your child. This time, take turns telling each other what to do: cross the street, turn left, look down.

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It's a Match

For children ages 5 to 7

Sorting and classifying helps your child to pay attention to details and recognize how things are alike and different.

Being able to identify how things are alike and different and to place objects and ideas into categories are important school skills that are used in almost every subject area.

What You Need

  • Dishes, flatware, glasses
  • Laundry

What to Do

  • As you empty the dishwasher or wash and dry dishes, ask your child to make stacks of dishes that are the same size, to put glasses that are the same size together and to sort forks, knives and spoons.

  • As you empty the clothes dryer, ask your child to match pairs of socks or to put all white things together, all blue things and so forth.

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Let's Read

For children ages 5 to 7

Reading is the single most important way for your child to develop the knowledge needed to become successful in school.

What You Need

  • Children's books that your child can read
  • Books of riddles, tongue twisters and silly rhymes

What to Do

    When reading is a regular part of family life, parents and families send their children a message that it is important, enjoyable and a great way to learn.
  • Read with your child. Take turns, with you reading one page or paragraph and your child reading the next. You might also read the parts of different characters in a story. Be enthusiastic about reading. Read the story with expression. Make it more interesting by talking as the characters would talk, making sound effects and using facial expressions and gestures. Encourage your child to do the same.

  • Help your child to read new words by having him use what he knows about letters and the sounds they make to sound out the words.

  • If he is unsure of the meaning of a word, help him to use the surrounding words or sentences to figure it out. If this doesn't help, just tell him what the word means and keep reading.

  • Buy a children's dictionary—if possible, one that has pictures next to the words. Then start the "let's look it up" habit.

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Author! Author!

For children ages 5 to 7

Reading and writing support each other. The more your child does of each, the better he will be at both.

What You Need

  • Pencils, crayons or markers
  • Writing paper
  • Cardboard or heavy paper
  • Construction paper
  • Safety scissors
  • Yarn or ribbon

What to Do

    Writing helps children to organize their thoughts and gives them an important way to communicate with others.
  • Write with your child. Talk with him about your writing so that he begins to understand that writing means something and has many uses.

  • Hang a family message board in the kitchen. Offer to write notes there for your child. Be sure that he finds notes left there for him.

  • Help your child write notes or e-mails to relatives and friends to thank them for gifts or to share his thoughts. Encourage the relatives and friends to answer your child.

  • As your child gets older, he can begin to write you longer stories. Ask questions that will help him organize the stories. Answer questions about spelling.

  • Help your child to turn his writing into books. Paste his drawings and writings on pieces of construction paper. For each book, have him make a cover out of heavier paper or cardboard, then add special art, a title and his name as author. Punch holes in the pages and cover and bind the book together with yarn or ribbon.

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Now You See It, Now You Don't

For children ages 5 to 7

Doing simple science experiments at home can prepare your child to learn important science concepts—and the need to be patient.

What You Need

  • 2 ice cube trays
  • Clock
  • Small bowls
  • Paper and pencil
  • Water and other liquids, such as fruit juices

What to Do

    Careful observation and note taking are valuable school skills.
  • Give your child a pencil and paper and tell her that she is going to be a scientist and take notes about what she observes in some experiments.

  • Together with your child, fill one ice cube tray to the top with water. Fill the other tray only half full. Put both trays in the freezer. Have your child record the time. Tell her to watch the clock and check every 30 minutes or so to see if the water in each tray has frozen (if not, wait until it has frozen).

    • Ask your child to write down how long it took the water in each tray to freeze.
    • Ask her which amount of water froze faster? Invite her to explain why she thinks this happened.

  • Have your child take one ice cube from each tray and put them in separate bowls to melt. Ask her to write down which cube melts faster—the larger one or the smaller one.

  • Put one ice cube in a window and another in the refrigerator (not the freezer) and have your child write down how long they each take to melt.

  • Freeze samples of liquids such as different kinds of fruit juices. Have your child compare their freezing times to that of water.

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Last Modified: 09/01/2003