My daughter is halfway through her first year of school. Going to a good preschool really helped to prepare her for kindergarten, but this is real school. Even though she’s only four, she’s in school full time and is learning to read. (We live in England where kids normally start kindergarten–called Reception–when they’re four years old.) She loves going to school, but to keep up she needs to do her homework. How do you motivate a kindergartner to want to do homework (including studying at home)?
Here are techniques that I’ve learned with my daughter this year.
Pick the Right Time
Would you want to come home from work and immediately start work on a report for your job? I wouldn’t, and neither do our kids. Most of the time it is unrealistic to expect young children to start work on their homework as soon as they get home from school. Likewise, it will just be frustrating for you both if you try doing homework when it is too close to bedtime and they’re just tired. Pick a time when you can concentrate on helping them, and they are able to pay attention. In my family, homework time is normally just after dinner. She’s had a chance to play and relax, has already eaten, and isn’t too tired yet.
Make it Fun
If you’re strict and stressed, then neither of you are going to enjoy homework time. The last thing that you want is to have a battle every day trying to get your child to focus, or for them to form the attitude now that they don’t like homework and school. The good news is that it is actually easy to make homework at this level fun.
For most kindergartners, their homework will be letters to learn, simple words to read, and numbers to work on. Many schools also pay attention to general skills like being able to dress and undress themselves. Try to turn it into a game. For example, pull out the legos or building blocks. Every time that they get a sound right, for example, give them another block to build a tower with. Or put puzzle pieces underneath slips of paper with words on them. When they read the word, then they get the puzzle piece. Be creative and make everything fun. Then it will not only help them to have a better attitude about learning and succeed at school, it will also become special quality time for you and your child to share.
Encourage and Praise
Kindergarten aged children want your love, approval, and attention. It’s amazing how much harder they are willing to work if they feel that they are getting recognized for their efforts. Tell them that they’re doing a good job and that they’re clever. Encourage them to keep going, even when they find something difficult. Consider giving them small rewards, like a sticker, when they’ve worked on their reading (or whatever they need to do).