If you know what inspires kids at every age, you'll find the key to helping them master new skills and become successful students. Here's how to nurture your enthusiastic learner:
1st Graders Love: Dramatic play
How It Promotes Learning: Whenever your child creates scenarios or reenacts a beloved tale, she's practicing story sequencing — a necessary reading and writing skill. Through pretend play, your child learns that a story has a beginning (where the characters and setting are established), a middle (where most of the action happens), and an ending (where a problem gets solved). Role-playing also requires your child to see the world through the eyes of another — an essential social skill that builds empathy and tolerance.
- Create a costume center. Fill a drawer or box with old clothing, scarves, shoes, glasses, and other props to inspire pretend play. Also toss in some open-ended items to spark kids' imagination. A cardboard box can be transformed into a taxi; a paper plate might become a mask or hat.
- Have a puppet read to your child. Be playful as you bring the puppet to life. Start with familiar stories, nursery rhymes, and poems, told in a squeaky or bellowing voice. Hearing rhymes and repetitive verses brings kids' attention to the initial and ending sounds in words. The puppet can also lead a silly sing-along. Clapping and stomping along to musical favorites like Bingo, Willoughby Wallaby Woo, and Apples and Bananas reinforces the rhythm of language, teaches your child about syllables, and gets her comfortable switching sounds around.
- Move to the music. Music is another great vehicle for dramatic play. Pop in an instrumental CD, and pretend to be different animals. As your child gallops, slithers or kangaroo-hops, he's using his body to express himself and bolstering gross motor skills in the process.
One step ahead: Find out what motivates 2nd graders.