Back to school for kids can mean back to homework for moms. And that’s not always a pleasure.
As a speech-language pathologist with a background in neuroscience - and as mom to a fifth grader – I’ve found there are easy games and exercises you can do at home to boost your children’s brain power. Try these and see if homework is more fun and productive at your house.
- Prime the brain before your child begins homework with the right kind of snacks and meals. Children are better able to pay attention and keep on task when they are hydrated. Water is the best choice, but juice can be beneficial, too. Offer a snack or meal with protein, and avoid refined sugars, which can interfere with concentration. Also, having a dance-off, shake-out or quick dash before you start homework or at break time is an excellent way to energize the brain. The brain loves cardiovascular activity!
- Try this game to build your child’s ability to block out distractions. Ask your child to do his best to stay focused on a short homework assignment while a sibling tries to district him in a goofy way. Reward him for ignoring the distraction and completing the task.
- Give your child two tasks at once. Test her on her spelling words while she’s doing a math problem, drawing a picture, or even packing up homework. This exercise develops the skills that help people listen to directions while working, and to shift focus in other ways.
- Let your children play teacher and teach you a skill or concept from school. You might even get tested and reward your children if you pass their exams.
- Throw a ball back and forth while working on memorizing lists like the names of states, presidents, or capitols. Getting into a rhythm helps memory.
- Can you get some homework done in the car? Yes! Say a spelling word for your child. Have him hunt for the letters to his word in order on billboards, signs and license plates. For bonus points see if your child can spell his spelling word backwards. When you can do a task in different ways, you really learn the task.
- My last tip may sound obvious, but I’ve found it works. Before school starts, let your child know the plan for homework later in the day. A statement as simple as, “You’ll have time to play this afternoon, and after dinner you’ll start your homework” will help your children understand that homework is important.
Dr. Vicki Parker is owner of Learning Rx, a brain training center in Charlotte. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .