9 Easy Ways Parents Can Teach Kids When They’re at Home

9 ways to educate kids at home

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School closures are just one more challenge facing us since the outbreak of Coronavirus. Parents already have lots to deal with, but our kids are our highest priority. We need ideas for easy ways parents can teach kids when they’re at home. Education is important, and we don’t want it to grind to a screeching halt!

I’ve put together some ideas for easy ways that parents can teach kids while they’re at home. The ideas below might just be a top up for your child’s education while they’re not at school.

All of the ideas can be adapted for children of different ages. I’ve given some examples of how you might do that. However, these ideas are just a starting point- adapt them and make them work for you and your family.

I firmly believe that education does not have to happen while seated at a desk. The following ideas are ways that you can teach your kids at home in creative, fun ways, that make the most of what’s already happening during the day. 

I hope you enjoy reading through these and please let me know if you have tried any out! Please also share this with other parent’s who might be feeling more than a little lost and alone in the world of lockdown, self-quarantine, and isolation.

9 easy ways parents can teach kids when they're at home

9 EASY WAYS PARENTS CAN TEACH KIDS WHEN THEY’RE AT HOME

1. MAKE EVERYDAY ROUTINES A TEACHING OPPORTUNITY

I’m a huge advocate of making the most of teaching opportunities that occur in everyday routines. When I say routines, I don’t mean anything as formal as a printed schedule. 

Routines’ simply refers to the different things that generally happen in your day, whether at a specific time or not. Routines might include: having breakfast, getting dressed, going for a walk, making lunch, and even bathtime. 

Making the most of these times is an easy way for parents to teach kids when they’re at home. It doesn’t have to be something extra- these teaching opportunities can fit into what you already do!

For a younger child, these routines are a great opportunity to build their language. When you’re giving a bath, you can label what you’re doing. 

For example, you could say, “I’m scrubbing your arm. I’m washing your chin.” This is teaching body parts, and the verbs ‘washing’ and ‘scrubbing.’ Your child is interested and engaged, and you are giving this language in context. This makes it a brilliant time to teach your child new words. 

Of course, you will need to adapt your language to the level your child is at. To do this, listen to how much your child is saying at the moment. Aim to use sentences that are just 1-2 words above what they are saying. That means, if they are saying only single words (e.g. ‘cat’ ‘more’) you would use short sentences of 2-3 words (e.g. ‘a big cat’ ‘you want more’). Make sure everything you say is still grammatically accurate. 

You can also use everyday routines to build your child’s independence, to give them practice at following simple instructions, to give them an opportunity to practice simple problem-solving, and to develop their motor skills. 

9 ways parents can teach kids when they're at home

For an older child, you can approach routines in a similar way, but expect much more of them. Is dinner time a good opportunity to increase their independence in preparing some ingredients? Can you develop their motor skills by showing them how to peel and chop things? Can you get them to read through a recipe and follow it? This is a great way to build literacy skills. Maybe you could teach them to count out, weigh, or measure some ingredients. This will develop their numeracy. 

Once you approach routines with the mindset that they are a teaching opportunity, you will see so many ways for you to teach your child new things. You will be able to teach them independence and life skills as well as academic skills. 

The very best thing about routines is that they usually happen everyday, so you can practice this skill again and again. Repetition is a very powerful teaching tool!

2. PLAY WORD GAMES

I recommend Word Games all the time through my work as a Speech and Language Therapist. It’s one the things I suggest to parents as well as to other client groups such as older people who’ve had strokes. The great things about them is that you need absolutely no materials or preparation, and the benefits are amazing. It’s one of the easiest ways that parents can teach kids when they’re at home.

For kids, word games are a great way to build both phonological awareness and language.   

Good skills in Phonological Awareness can actually lead to better achievement in literacy. And it’s really fun to work on. Check out this post for 5 Easy and Fun Ways Parents can Build Phonological Awareness for their child. It also goes into more depth about what Phonological Awareness is and why it’s so important.

9 ways parents can teach kids when they're at home

In a nutshell, you can build Phonological Awareness by playing: rhyming games, syllable games, splitting words up into sounds, blending sounds into words, and even adding, substituting or deleting sounds from words. 

You could also play word games to build vocabulary. What about playing a describing game- put objects into feely bag and have your child describe what they feel. You could also play a game where you mist describe something for someone to guess without ever naming it. For example, “it’s an animal found in jungles. It has orange and black stripes and big teeth. It’s fast and scary.

Play word games to build narrative skills– play ‘Build a Story’ where each person adds a sentence to the story until it gets longer and longer (and usually sillier and sillier!)

3. PRACTICE MENTAL MATH

There are lots of opportunities for mental math through everyday life. 

You could also play card games such as Snap, Go Fish, and even 21 (start with 2 cards each- add them up, choose to pick up another or ‘stick’. You are ‘bust’ when you go above 21 but the player with the closest number to 21 is the winner).

Practicing with money is a fantastic way for kids to practice mental math. Figure out what you want to buy and the cost of each item, figure out the total cost, and figure out how much change you will get.

4. PICK A TOPIC OF INTEREST

9 ways parents can teach kids when they're at home

Find out from your kids what they are most interested in at the moment. Maybe it’s a particular topic such as dinosaurs, planets, a country or even something from the news. Maybe they want to research more into Coronavirus? 

Plan activities and learning opportunities around their chosen interest. Can you help your child to use the internet to research and find out more about it? It might be helpful for you to set some ‘research questions’ or things for them to find out.

How can they present their findings? Consider a scrap book for younger kids. Or, if your child is a bit older, why not present findings in a spider diagram, a pie chart, or even a line or bar chart? 

Is there an opportunity for them to do drawings based on this topic? Maybe you could plan a craft or even a science activity (e.g. model planets).

Maybe they could write the findings up into a report (this could even be an article or news report). Additionally, they could do a story, poem or character exploration.

There are so many ways to delve deeper and deeper into a topic, pulling in all the different subject areas such as literacy, numeracy, art and so on. The best thing about this is that your child will be engaged and interested- they’ve picked the topic after all!

Extend your child’s thinking and give suggestions and prompts for expanding on the topic, but let them lead it as much as possible. They will love having ownership like this, and it’s actually setting them up with skills for life!

5. HAVE GREAT CONVERSATIONS

Learning through conversation is one of the most effective ways of teaching. Language is the platform for almost all learning. Having the kids at home more gives you more opportunities to boost their speech and language skills. 

Check out these8 Essential Strategies to Boost Speech and Language for Busy Parents(and grab your freePrintable Cheat Sheet).

One of the easiest things you can do as a parent of younger children, is to use the ‘expanding’ strategy.

You can start to use this strategy even before they are using any words. In the beginning, it helps to copy your child’s sounds and babble, and also to model lots of single words. When they point to the cat and make a noise, say, “cat! It’s a cat!”

When your child starts to use single words, and they point at the cat and say, “cat”, you might reply, “Ooh a big cat” or you could say, “The cat is sleeping.” Slightly emphasise the new word, and repeat your statement two or three times. This is also a good time to teach your child different types of words- describing words, action words, pronouns.

For older children, why not try extending.’ You might extend a comment your child makes by giving them more information, or by asking them a question. When you ask the question, you could be prompting them to solve a problem, predict what might happen, or to develop Theory of Mind. 

For example, if the child says, ‘look, a spider!’ You could ask, ‘what do you think he’s doing?’, or ‘how do you think he feels when he sees us?’ 

Extending the conversation in these ways prompts deeper thinking and helps higher-level language skills to develop. Again, this is all crucial for future academic and social success. 

6. READ WITH YOUR CHILD

read with your kids

Reading together is one of the easiest ways for parents to teach kids when they’re at home. Use books that they’re interested in. Don’t be afraid to ad lib! It’s totally fine to forget about the words altogether and to use the book as a prompt for a great conversations (see idea no. 5).

You can talk about what they think will happen next in the story, how the characters are feeling, and even relate it to everyday experiences. ‘Do you remember when we went on a bus?‘ or ‘can you remember a time when you were as worried as the character was?

Again, adapt this to the age and language level of your child but as much as you can- feed in language. Make book reading as interactive as possible- a two-way conversation, not a test!

At the end of the story, you could ask your child to re-tell the story. You can prompt them with questions such as: what happened in the beginning/ what happened next?/ what was the problem in the story?/ how did it end?

Being able to re-tell a narrative is hugely important for school and also for life.

7. CHECK OUT APPS

While screen time is definitely something I recommend that parents are careful about, a short amount of guided time on apps can be really beneficial. 

Parents has a list of the Best Educational Apps for Kids.

Also check out my list of 40+ Best Free Apps for Toddlers To Have Fun and Learn.

Some key advice for using apps is:

  • Always download the ‘lite’ version of an app first so you can see if it’s worthwhile before spending any money on it. 
  • When giving an iPad, be sure you don’t give your child unsupervised access to internet.
  • Do the apps together when you first start so that you can teach your child if needed and check that it’s at the right level- not too easy and not too hard.
  • Set a time limit for using apps- maybe 20-30 mins a day is a good starting point. 
  • While apps are fun and engaging, they usually don’t involve a child using any language. Be aware of this as time in interaction leads to far more learning, especially for younger children. Children won’t learn to talk from an app- they will only learn to talk from those around them interacting with them. 

8. LEARN SOMETHING NEW

Is there a new skill that your child would like to learn? This might be a craft skill, a musical instrument, paper folding, a language, or even an online skill such as design or coding. 

Talk to your child about this- it’s an opportunity they have because they are at home much more, and because most of their other activities are cancelled at the moment. In my area, there are no classes, sports, or clubs happening. 

Help your child to choose something and then make a plan for how they can learn this skill. Plan out where they can find the resources (online is a great place for this), and decide when they will work on this each day and for how long. You might help them to set an achievable goal around learning this skill, and then provide encouragement so they achieve their goal. Break it down into achievable steps and have rewards to motivate them (a reward can be something simple).

Maybe you would even consider learning this new thing alongside your child!

9. MAKE ROOM FOR FUN

Remember that play is also a time where lots of learning occurs- children learn when they’re engaged, interested, and having fun. Play promotes development and helps kids learn about the world. It promotes language development, social skills, theory of mind, imagination and resilience- so don’t feel bad about letting your kids play for large chunks of time- they’re still learning!

Of course, there are some ways to play that promote development more than others. For example, sitting on the Xbox won’t necessarily help with all of these skills. 

Although play should be child-led, it isn’t a bad idea for parents to suggest ways to extend the play, supply different equipment to encourage this to happen, and even to join in with the play! Kids will learn a lot from you playing alongside them.

For example, you could suggest setting up a play grocery store and help your kids to plan the steps on how to do it. You could help them to assign roles, and also gently teach social skills if you have more than one child (e.g. taking turns and sharing).

You could also playfully introduce a problem (‘oh no! We’re out of eggs! What should we do?”) to develop your child’s problem-solving skills. Check out this Ultimate Guide for Parents to see why play is so important and for some more great ideas on what you can do.

AND THAT’S IT!

I hope you enjoyed these easy ways that parents can teach kids while they’re at home.

These ideas might be in addition to work the school has provided, but it will ensure that you are continuing to teach your kids both academic and life skills. This is so crucial for later life success! It’s worth putting ideas into action to keep promoting your child’s development.

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I hope you enjoyed these easy ways parents can teach kids when they’re at home. Please comment and let me know how you’ve been keeping your kids busy!

Thanks for reading!

Freya x

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9 Easy Ways Parents Can Teach Kids When They’re at Home

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