How to give a child a good start in September without taking away the fun of the summer…
SATs are finished. School reports are out. Sports days, school plays, and summer shows are quickly becoming a distant memory. Children everywhere up and down the country are looking forward to days where Maths and English lessons can be forgotten; and why not? School term times are getting tougher, and they will certainly have earned their summer break!
Playing and learning go hand in hand, and keeping their brain active in the summer will definitely give your child a head start in September. Here are a few fun ideas for the holiday break that will keep your child’s brain active over the summer, or help them prepare for any exams they may be taking in the autumn term. More importantly, these are hopefully tips that will be fun for everyone in the family too!
Fun Educational Games
I love to play games with my children. As a family we play word games , board games, and card games. They are fun, but the best bit is that it keeps them thinking throughout the summer without them realising! Word games we enjoy include Boggle, quick and really fun, and Scrabble which really gets them thinking. If you have a wet rainy afternoon then Monopoly is a classic. It has a range of sums that keeps their mental maths in shape, from adding up dice scores, to counting money and getting the right change. Other games among our favourites that help Maths include board games such as Cluedo, battleships and Rummikub, as well as the many card games where you keep score or add values together such as Rummy and Twenty-One.
If your child loves being at a computer screen, then use that to your advantage. There are many great games and resources online, and BBC Bitesize is great for all ages and subjects if you’ve not already found it.
Keeping Maths fun
For younger children (reception or Year 1) Number Bond Snap is fun, where you call snap when the cards add up to 10. Other simple games to practice mental arithmetic include pairing games using number cards, or dice to find totals of two numbers. According to the National Curriculum, children should know their number bonds to 10 and 20, as well as addition and subtraction facts to 20 (for example 5 + 2 = 7, or 19 – 11 = 8) by the end of Year two. This means knowing them without hesitation or using their fingers. These skills are the foundation for many Maths problems and many schools rush past these with today’s very busy curriculum. Making sure your child is secure in these will really help them next September.
For older children, times tables are key, and will help improve a wide range of Maths problems. Children finishing Year 4 should know their times tables to 12, back-to-front, and without hesitation. That said many children in Year 5 are still working on these. If your child does struggle to recall times tables, then lots of practice counting up and down in steps of three or four, for example, will really help this. Build their confidence with easier tables rather than start too hard; if they struggle with their 4x tables then trying 8x or 9x will not be the best starting point.
Everyone loves cake!
Perhaps the most constructive use of you and your child’s time during the holidays is doing activities that can’t be taught easily in a class of thirty children. For example, baking is a great thing to do with your child. Generally kids love baking cakes and what better way to learn about kilograms and grams, or litres and millilitres than by actually using them practically. For older children you can make double or triple the quantity of a recipe which involves the concept of scaling. These practical experiences can add a context to the more abstract and theoretical Maths they learn in school and can be very beneficial academically. Other practical opportunities to develop Maths skills include using money; telling the time; and artwork that incorporates shape and symmetry.
Keeping English fun
There are a number of great things that you can do to help their English. For my children, I will be keeping our regular 20 or 30 minutes a day bedtime reading routine. Occasionally we read together out loud so I can check their level and understanding. I cannot emphasise enough how much your child will gain from reading. Regular reading will have an impressive impact on most aspects of English skills including vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, comprehension skills, as well as inspiring them to pick up pens or computers and write stories of their own.
If you are stuck for book ideas, or need to inspire them, then local libraries often have reading challenges over the summer which are really worth checking out. This year the theme in Essex libraries is the Space Chase inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the lunar landings. Aside from being a great resource, it’s a brilliant way to support your local library, some of which like ours in Manningtree have been under threat of closure.
To encourage my children to write, we keep a sketch book diary. It’s a cross between a drawing book, scrap book, and diary. Any day we do something out of the ordinary, like visit a museum, or spend time away from home, I’ll encourage them to add something to their book. This will include drawings, or sticking in entrance tickets or postcards, and naturally some writing to describe the day, or tell a story about a picture they’ve been inspired to draw.
No two children are the same…
Another huge advantage you have as a parent is that you know your child better than anyone. You are uniquely placed to tailor an activity that specifically interests your child. Think about what interests your child, what motivates them and go with that. As a tutor, I love to find out what makes each individual child tick, and plan work around that; when a child throws their arms in the air and cheers when presented with a piece of work, I know I’m onto a winner!
Rewards, Praise, and Avoiding Battles
Some parents will be putting their child forward for the 11 plus exam in September. You may feel they need to do a bit of extra over the holidays, lest all that hard work of tutoring, and homework over the previous year be forgotten. Practicing exam papers, or spending time on work set by tutors or teachers may require more imagination to overcome resistance.
Most children respond positively to being rewarded and praised. Rewards are effective when used well, and different children respond to different things– some may want extra screen time, others a few minutes extra playing in the garden before bedtime. Others may get satisfaction from filling a Jar with beans or pasta that earns them extra pocket money (or some other treat) when full. Sometimes just a big smile and thumbs up is all that’s needed to communicate that you are happy with them. Whatever it is, positive reinforcement will benefit both you and your child. Every day, be sure to look for ways to tell them, “Well done!”
Whatever you choose to do with your children over the holiday, I hope you have a fun a relaxing time with your family, and wish you lovely summer.
…and if you have some favourite family games that help with Maths or English, let me know in the comments – I’d love to try some new ones!