If your kids are like most, their motivation is waning at this point in the school year. Homework? They don’t want to do it. School projects? Bring on the grumbles. Reading ahead for next week’s assignment? Can’t be bothered.
If you’re running out of motivational speeches to give your kids on the fly, not to worry. These are teachers’ top tips and suggestions for what you can do at home to make sure your kids stay on top of homework, school projects, and reading all year long.
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1. Create a Special Study Spot
If children don’t have their own study area at home, they tend to get distracted, so it’s important to create a designated place for your child. “Make it clear that this is their spot to do their best thinking, so that they take it seriously as well,” says Maya Lê Espiritu, an elementary school teacher in Oceanside, California, and creator of MaiStoryBook.
Furnish it with their best school supplies, like the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary. “Having a variety of colored pens, markers, and fun pencils can also make homework fun,” says Melissa Miller, a first-grade teacher in Franklin, Tennessee. A motivational planner designed just for kids can also help them view getting tasks done as a positive thing.
2. Work Together to Learn
Children can often have a difficult time sitting down to complete homework on their own, so Lê Espiritu suggests arranging a time in which you and your child work alongside one another, if possible.
“You don't have to be doing the homework with your child,” says Lê Espiritu. “Instead, have your own work or a book that you are reading, and model focusing and working hard on your task.”
You can also ask your child to teach you what they’re learning. “If they can teach the material, they are learning at a deeper level,” says Miller. “Tell your child that you would love to listen to them read while you are driving — instead of listening to the radio — or while you are cooking dinner.”
3. Think About Rewards
Some children need that extra boost of positive reinforcement to get their work done, says Lê Espiritu. She suggests setting up a sticker chart at home and doling out stickers whenever your child completes a task. Many favorite character books, like The All New Captain Underpants Extra-Crunchy Book O’Fun #2 or Despicable Me 2: Make a Minion Reusable Sticker Book, come with their own fun stickers! Once your kid earns a certain number of stickers, they can exchange them for a treat or prize.
That being said, positive reinforcement doesn’t have to cost money — just spending time together on their favorite activity (like playing dolls or building LEGOs!) is a great way to reward a job well done. “Verbal praise for doing work is also reinforcing,” says Lê Espiritu. “Emphasize that they are growing their brain and learning so much.”
4. Get Up and Move!
To keep your child inspired during a long homework stretch, you have to make sure they have the opportunity to get up and move around between tasks. “Kids need movement, and you will find that work time goes much faster when they've had time to get their blood flowing,” says Miller.
For every 10 to 15 minutes of work, she suggests setting aside one to three minutes for a dance party to one of their favorite tunes (hello, Descendants 3 soundtrack).
5. Read With Your Child Every Night
One big misconception is that when a child learns how to read, they’ll always want to read on their own. Not true! Reading together continues to foster a love of reading, learning, and discovering new things. In fact, here’s why one mom still reads to her tweens.
“As your child grows as a reader, grow with them,” says Miller. “Move into book series that are even slightly above your child's reading level so you can have rich discussion, discover new words, build comprehension, and create mental images. Your child is never too old to be read to or read with!”