As a parent, you play an active role in the success of your child’s education. In fact, studies have shown that parents who are actively involved in their child’s schooling are more likely to raise successful children. But what motivates a child to do well in school?
There are many things you can do to help your child have a great school year, and it’s important to note that your encouragement will be an ongoing process throughout their education. In this article, we’ll go through how to motivate kids early and continue the process to help our children be the best versions of themselves they can be.
How to motivate a child to learn – start early with the school prep
Although most of us would view the term ‘pushy parent’ in a negative light, we still can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy when our child doesn’t appear to be reading, but their best friend does.
Hampstead Hill, advises that not every child will be ready for a book at the same time and within a school year there can be a year’s age difference between the youngest and the oldest child. People often talk about summer born children being at a disadvantage, especially during their formative school years, and to a certain extent, they are playing catchup throughout this time. During the Foundation Stage, there can be vast differences between four and five-year-olds and their subsequent ability levels.
Parents motivate children to do well in English and mathematics, often to the exclusion of other areas of learning and development. The new Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum (EYFS) states there are seven areas of learning: Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development, and Communication and Language. These are classed as prime areas. The remaining specific areas are Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design.
As the wording of the Foundation Stage curriculum suggest; children need to establish firm foundations and skills before they can embed these into more sophisticated learning. As cliched as it sounds, rather like the construction of a house; without laying the firm foundations, the rest of the building would collapse.
How do you develop these foundations?
Personal, Social and Emotional development is perhaps the most important of all areas of learning and development. Your child should first learn how to function socially and how to form strategies to look after themselves. After all, what good is it to recite the words of Shakespeare if they can’t boil an egg? An oversimplified analogy indeed, but to motivate a child to want to learn, the fundamental areas must come first.
Activities to develop personal, social and emotional abilities
- Providing activities for your child that encourage turn-taking and sharing
- Setting up role-play areas that reflect our multi-cultural society
- Selecting books, puppets and toys to help your child explore their own and others’ feelings and viewpoints
- Introducing activities that require collaboration, e.g. ring games, parachute activities, etc.
A child does not have the immediate ability or strength to pick up a pencil and write. Kids need to develop their large (gross) motor movements, which will lead to more refined, smaller (fine) motor movements later.
Activities to develop gross motor skills
- Throwing and catching a large ball
- Encouraging your child to move in different ways and at varying speeds, balancing, target throwing, rolling, kicking and catching
- Making large swirling movements with ribbons
- Using large paintbrushes and water to make drawings/patterns outside
- Marking large-scale patterns/movements in sand, paint, water etc
Activities to develop fine motor skills
- Using grabbers/kitchen implements (remembering safety first!) to hunt for treasure in the sand.
- Using tweezers to hunt for treasure in the sand (as fine motor ability becomes more refined)
- Encouraging making patterns with fingers in the sand, shaving foam, gloop cornflour/water mix.)
- Providing activities that allow the opportunity and motivation to practice manipulative skills, etc. cooking, painting, clay and playing instruments.
Activities to develop Communication and Language
The importance of establishing speaking, listening and communication skills has at last been recognised and implemented. When learning a new language, we can always comprehend more than we can speak. Similarly, we are more capable of speaking a language than reading or writing it, at least to begin with. It seems it has taken a long time for the government to realise the skills of listening, speaking, comprehension, reading and writing are not simultaneously achievable but hierarchical.
- Planning for lots of rhyming and rhythmic activities and as your child progresses, point out the rhymes/talk about similarities in rhyming words. Using rhyming from the youngest of ages cannot be underestimated and its bearing on your child as a future competent reader.
- Encouraging your child to interact with other children and perhaps sing songs together, describe an event, and listen to their peers doing the same.
- Providing opportunities for your child to talk for a wide range of purposes, e.g. describe what they have constructed, explain, instruct, discuss, justify their decisions.
- Reading your child stories which incorporate repetitive phrases and repeated refrains/structures.
How to motivate a child to do well in school – the academic assessment journey
There are different paths you can take during your child’s academic years, and these paths depend on your socio-economic status, your mentality about education, and your child’s academic ability.
One path is to stay on the conventional state school route, along with Year 2 phonics screening, SATS (which will be abolished in 2023), Year 6 SATs and then GCSEs.
The second path veers off towards the end of Year 6, where you have an option to send your child to a grammar/consortium school. Your child would need to take the 11+ exams to get into these schools.
The third path is the private route, where your child will meet an array of assessments during their academic years, starting with the 7+ exam so they have the chance to attend an independent prep (private) school. The 8+ exam is structured in the same way as the 7+ but is taken in January when pupils join the school the following September. Again, this is to be in with the chance to get into an independent prep school.
Then you have the 11+, which is where you may begin the hunt for a tutor to prep your child for either grammar schools or private schools. This path is probably where you will find the most competitive amongst parents. They are all vying for the same top schools, and as these schools are oversubscribed, it’s slim pickings to get the school of choice.
You may be a parent who doesn’t want all that for their child, and that’s perfectly ok. Perhaps you have a family business, or your child wants to be the next Vanessa Mae or Jackson Pollock. Maybe you want your child to attend a good school, but you don’t want to pressure them down the private school route so early. Explore Learning or Kumon may be too much at this point and really all you want to do is enhance your child’s learning a bit at home.
Gaining knowledge doesn’t have to stop when the school bell rings. Enhanced learning, whether it be through play or kid’s worksheets, encourages your child to step outside of their comfort zone and absorb new information like the sponges that they are. The more they learn, the more learned they become.
Of course, I must point out that I am never ok with forcing a child to learn. I believe in education and extracurricular activities, but I don’t feel comfortable pushing my child to the point of social outcast or emotional breakdown. Children are still children, and they need to have the chance to blow off steam and play every day.
“Give your child an edge over the competition!” Exam Papers Plus
So, how can parents help make their children successful in school?
What motivates a child to do well in school? Adopt a positive attitude toward learning
Fun learning and positive reinforcement are probably the most effective way of learning, and there have been some proven ways of enhancing learning at home through play. Role-plays are popular, and so are practical projects, like baking (using maths to calculate recipe ingredients).
Writing stories or poems are great at broadening your child’s imagination and building on their vocabulary and handwriting skills. Kids’ worksheets are proven to be one of the most effective ways of enhancing learning, especially if the worksheets cater to the current school curriculum. We live in a digital age, so, unlike back in my day when you’d have to go to a shop to buy past papers, you can now download and print out a worksheet whenever you’re ready. We’ll talk more about worksheets in a moment.
Become involved in your child’s school
Be sure to meet your child’s teachers and establish a partnership with them. After all, you both have the same goal; to help your child do well at school. Get to know who is who around the school, not only in terms of the staff but also the other parents and kids. Offer to help at school, especially during extracurricular activities. If your child sees how involved you are with their school and how interested you are in their learning experience, they will more likely try harder in the long run.
Be available during homework sessions
No child wants to sit by themselves and do their homework if they know other people in the house are having a good time. What motivates your child to do their homework? Get involved with them! Sit with your child during homework sessions, not only to make sure it gets done but also to answer questions they might have. If you struggle with the answers yourself, you and your child can explore books together and other sources on the internet to discover the answer together. Homework time can actually become quite a bonding experience.
Outsource help with learning
Use homework services to help build ability
People frown upon using assignment help services, but it can be a great way for older kids to learn how to structure and implement facts and apply them to the questions set for their homework. You can contact a professional for homework assignment help and use the project provided as precedent for how to do future assignments.
It took me a while to find a reputable online resource that could provide me with not only extracurricular activity sheets the kids could do at home, but a learning journey we could follow throughout their academic years. Here are my favourites:
- TheSchoolRun, at first glance, looks complicated to use, but it’s so detailed and resourceful, it will have everything you need to help your kids through their primary education.
- EdPlace* is great for 11+ prep and catching up with the school curriculum if your child is behind or enhancing their learning if they’re cruising. It’s important to challenge your child if they can take more and take a step back if they can’t. A happy medium is important here and online platforms like EdPlace are great for this, especially with their rewards system. You can find more information on how EdPlace works for the 11+ here.
- Tutorfair offers online tutoring to enhance your child’s learning. It’s not always about cramming and exam preparation, but some relaxed educational learning will avoid boredom setting in and help students keep the information they learned in their previous school year,
“We envision a world where every student has easy access to great tutors.” Tutorfair
Worksheets and Activity Sheets
Kids’ worksheets are a great way to provide your child with some extra practice. They come in bite-sized chunks and in all shapes and sizes, from tracing to writing stories.
There are tons of resources online that offer free worksheets, but if you’re looking to make a real difference in your child’s academic ability, I would suggest you opt for premium worksheets like Exam Papers Plus which offers engaging and effective worksheets that enhance your child’s academic journey, from 7+ to GCSE.
How do you encourage your child to take an interest in worksheets?
It’s important that you are present and engaging. A mother of six boys once told me that for your kids to achieve success, they need to feel confident that they can do anything. And to achieve that feeling, they need to feel loved and reassured; reassured that no matter how well they do in their exams, their parents will still love them. No matter what their mark is, they will always succeed in their parent’s eyes.
But, how do you encourage your child to learn without putting them off? Before you bring out the worksheets, here are some tips to encourage your child to sit down with a worksheet at home:
- Keep an eye out for any weaknesses in their learning at school and talk to them about it.
- Find out what they would do and what they’re really not interested in doing.
- Talk about learning at home positively and prepare them before you start.
- Set short periods of time in the day when you can work on a worksheet together and use a reward system like stickers or points if they complete that worksheet (points or stickers can go towards a larger reward of their choice). My brother-in-law once told me his parents used to offer him and his brother 5p a worksheet and he would save the money to buy sweets, chocolate or a toy in the end. This is a great way to enhance money maths skills without the child even knowing it!
Whatever result your child achieves when completing a worksheet, remember they are trying their best to impress you. If they fail, pick them up, stay positive, and start again.
Monitor technology use
Many children spend more time playing video games, watching television and browsing the web than they do completing their school work. Be sure to monitor their leisure time and offer some suitable alternatives when you think they’ve spent too long on their technological devices. You could introduce some educational board games to encourage learning in a group environment. Monopoly is a great way to introduce and develop money maths, and Scrabble enhances vocabulary and English skills.
Ask your child about their day
When you see your child at the end of the school day, ask them lots of open-ended questions about their lessons. Talking about their school day will help them solidify what they learned, and it will show them you’re interested in their academic development.
How to help a child with anxiety at school
If your child has shown symptoms of stress at school, but they seem fine at home, then there may be something they’re not telling you that is hindering their development. It’s important to note that, like separation anxiety, school anxiety is not connected with behaviour or poor parenting. Your child’s worry is a cry for help, and it will often be dressed with feeling ill or causing tantrums, which may look like inappropriate behaviour.
Don’t get tough on them and tell them off, instead find out first if the anxiety isn’t coming from bullying, problems with friends or their schoolwork. Speak to the teacher and ask them if they’ve seen anything out of the ordinary that may cause this anxiety at school. Chat to your child and ask them if there is anything concerning them.
Monitor your child’s behaviour and empower them by telling them you are on their side and whatever is happening, you will help them. If they don’t want to talk, you can’t force them, but soon enough something will slip, and you will eventually find out what is causing the anxiety at school. It’s essential to tackle this issue as soon as you can, as it may inhibit your child from doing well at school.
How to encourage a child to study
When working on how to motivate a child to study, practice makes perfect and the sooner your child develops their unique work ethic, the better they will be at school and, ultimately, at work when they’re adults. You are one of those rare lucky parents if your child says they want to study instead of going outside to play. However, if your child isn’t like that – and most children aren’t – the critical point to note here is that you don’t want to force your child or use any negativity linked with studying, for example, don’t punish them with studying.
Motivating children to study should be a welcome addition to enhanced learning, and your child should want to be better and work harder at what they want to achieve. But, ‘How do I teach my child to study?’ you frantically ask yourself. It’s a long process if your child puts up a fight, but developing good study skills is vital, and so you should put in the long fight.
Designate a certain study time and place every day or select times in the week. Establish goals, so the child understands what they need to do, and they don’t become overwhelmed with the workload. Then motivate your child to keep going.
Congratulate them on their hard work more so than whether they get all the answers right. Praising a child for how hard they work goes so much further than telling them they’re super smart and doing well – of course, that also helps too. But you don’t want to set high goals for them they feel they can’t achieve.
Organise your child’s work corner
Your child should have a study corner which they associate with working. This could either be in their bedroom or at the dining table; wherever they feel the most comfortable to work.
Then help your child organise their study tools with furniture built for organisation. The Tidy Books ForgetMeNot ticks a lot of boxes for managing a busy child’s life and it’s enjoyable enough for the child to become independent and take control of their own lives.
Avoid ‘The Summer Slide’ during the summer holidays
A lot of children become ‘lazy’ during the summer holidays and forget skills they learned in the previous school year. The term is actually called ‘The Summer Slide’, coined by educational psychologist Harris Cooper, who found that US schoolchildren regress in all subjects over the summer holidays, by an average of 1 month in spelling skills, and by 2.6 months in maths (Cooper, 1996).
“Students will score lower on the same test at the end of the summer than they did at the start,” Downey, 2004
How to prevent ‘The Summer Slide’
It is important to keep up with the schoolwork, but you may wonder how to motivate a child to do homework during the summer. It is just as vitally important that kids get their downtime over the summer and rest well before the school season starts, especially those students who have had to tackle exams before the holiday. Motivating kids in the summer is tough, but there are some fun and effective ways to promote learning over the summer break.
“Teachers spend 4 to 6 weeks re-teaching forgotten material,” Peters, 2005
Play not work
Summer learning should be all about fun, whether you are the educator yourself or you are enlisting in the help of a nanny or tutor. But discovering activities that children can enjoy and spinning them into fun ways of learning serious topics from next year’s curriculum will ensure that children are having fun and learning skills in advance that will help them in the classroom. A good way would be to create a treasure hunt with subject-specific clues. It will also keep them occupied, depending on how easy or difficult you make the questions!
Six weeks of summer provides perfect opportunities to encourage your child to read. Harris Cooper found the poorest children lose the most reading skills, while those better off actually improved over the summer. Even just reading four to five books over the summer has a positive impact on a child’s reading skills.
If you have a reluctant reader, you can be inventive and work towards their hobbies and interests. My third child is two and loves numbers. So, I write the numbers down from one to ten in words on sticky notes and pop them around the house. I then write the actual numbers and ask her to find all twenty sticky notes.
Then we work together to match the numbers to their written version. Even if she has no clue what the words say, I’m providing her with a subconscious memory of how the numbers look like words.
Also, she’s a huge Peppa Pig fan, so reading the same book repeatedly every night may be tedious for me, but invaluable for her to improve her reading skills and ability to grasp phonics. I point to the words as I read them, enunciating the phonemes and encouraging her to read some of the simpler words again back to me.
There’s actually an awesome challenge online that caters towards the more tech-savvy, paper-phobic child, called the Summer Reading Challenge, which rewards children with stickers and certificates for free. You can also step out of the house and pop into the local library, which has a goldmine of books that children can choose from.
We have tons of books in our house, but I’m pretty sure the kids appreciate a trip to the library and reading in a different setting. It also motivates them to keep up with the reading, as they’ll want to go back and read more.
My eldest applies basic maths to daily activities and my middle boy is obsessed with numbers, so I try to incorporate maths into our activities during the day. As I cook and bake all the time, I involve the kids and adapt recipe quantities to familiarise them with dividing, multiplying and using very basic fractions (one, half, quarter). Again, even if my little one is staring blankly at me when I tell her we need to divide a recipe quantity by four, I know I am setting up a base for her to work from when she is introduced to the maths jargon at school later.
Another great way is to tell the time throughout the day. Pointing out when it’s one, two, three o’clock and then counting down the hours until daddy gets home enables them to understand the dissection of time and relate it to specific times in the day. Breakfast is at 8am, which is four hours before lunchtime, at 12 o’clock etc. Time calculations can prove a challenge for children as they are working from a base of 60, rather than the normal 10s and 100s they learn from numbers. So give it time if it takes a while for them to click with it all.
Children are natural entrepreneurs and setting up a lemonade stand, for example, is a fast-track way of increasing not only their maths skills, but their business skills too. Be there to supervise them and help them calculate their profit margin and hourly earnings. Make sure you also monitor their lemonade recipe to ensure that they are actually producing something drinkable!
Patience is definitely a virtue when motivating children to practice writing. My eldest showed absolutely no interest in writing until he was in school, to which he then produced a remarkably accurate list of all the letters in the alphabet and even penned a few three and four-letter words as well – to say I was astonished is a massive understatement! However, he couldn’t hold a pen properly until well into his school years. My daughter is two and held the pen properly almost instantly. They’re all so different.
Make writing fun. During long car journeys, you can hold challenges for the best storyteller. Not only will this help the kids’ linguistic creativity, but it will stop them bickering in the car. A great way to get kids writing too is to send postcards to their friends. It only takes a couple of lines on the back of the postcard, so it’s not overwhelming, and they get to write to their friends, which helps increase their social circles too.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ll find getting creative with science surprisingly tricky. So what is a good way to motivate your child with science?
Upon deeper inspection, science is actually all around us and can be taught to kids so they understand.
Take advantage of our flailing British summer weather and, after the next rain shower, draw chalk circles round a few puddles to observe the water cycle. Kids learn about water evaporation, as the puddle slowly reduces in size.
We have a large garden, so we try to collect as many plants as possible and discuss the differences and similarities between them. My sister bought the boys an ant farm, so we had fun creating an ant kingdom during the last days of summer. If you don’t have a large garden, just stop by your nearest park, which is bound to have way more creatures and plants waiting for you and the kids to discover!
My 12 year old son is not interested in studies nor is he seriously into any sports or other hobbies/activities. He comes out bad in his exams and sits around playing video games or watching TV the entire time. Is it too early to worry about this or is there something that can be done?
How to motivate a lazy child when they’re not interested in doing anything? You can find the answer here.
How do I motivate my 20 year old son who refuses to go to school, get a job or help around the house?
At this age, it’s important you learn how to teach a child to study independently. Find more information here: https://qr.ae/pGxPgU
My teenage son is so lazy and doesn’t seem motivated to do anything. Is it my fault as a parent?
When considering how to motivate a lazy child in school, you need to work out what is causing the lack of ambition. Find out how to motivate your teenager to do better in school here: https://qr.ae/pGxPgc
My 17 year old son does not go to school anymore. He thinks it is a waste of time. What should I do?
You might wonder how to motivate a child who is unmotivated to go to school. Find out how to motivate your teenager to do better in school here: https://qr.ae/pGxPgB
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