5 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Study Habits

September 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

With school in full swing again, it’s important to create an environment where kids have the best possible opportunity to learn and excel. Lessons build on one another, so if a child needs some help to learn from home more effectively, earlier is better. If you’re wondering how to build good habits, or just maintain your child’s enthusiasm, check out these simple ideas.
1. Learn how your child learns

One of the biggest mistakes that parents (and even some teachers) make is to assume that children will learn the same way they do. We use a single word, “intelligence”, to describe what are actually a variety of different skills and mental processes—and sometimes you’ll have to put extra work in when a subject isn’t being taught the way your child learns. All of the following tips will be more effective if you can tailor them to your child’s cognitive style: it affects the way children respond to boundaries, the way they remember, and the environment they need to learn effectively.

2. Be available

You don’t need to hover to help your child study—in fact, it may be counterproductive—but being “around” can make a big difference, as you can gently steer them away from distractions and offer help if they’re stuck. The challenge is to be helpful without doing the hard thinking for them, or letting them become completely hopeless. Every child’s balance between beneficial frustration and despair will be different, so you’ll have to discover that together.

3. Encourage physical activity prior to study

Whether it’s a brisk walk or participating in school athletics, studies have shown a clear link between physical activity and improved academic performance. In addition to the cognitive benefits of long-term fitness, light physical exercise prior to study can improve circulation, regulate mood, and shake off afternoon drowsiness—all of which make kids (and grown-ups) more effective learners.

For bodily/kinesthetic learners, you may even want to integrate physical activity into learning exercises. And for kids who are less-enthusiastic about exercise, remember that they don’t need to come in gasping for breath to benefit—a quick walk around the block with them is just as good, and a great opportunity to let them “unpack” their day with you. Another idea is to create a daily learning cheer like this one to use before school and before kids sit down to do their homework.

4. Create a conducive environment for study

However your child learns best, environment can help. Some kids need space to move around; others are helped by quiet music. Some kids need solitude to focus and think—others are helped by being able to discuss concepts and bounce ideas around. In general, though, make sure there are no TV or video games available during study time. Try not to take phone calls until afterward. If you live in a smaller home, room divider screens can create a little study cubicle without totally cutting kids off.

In addition to creating a study space, it helps to establish a study time; all kids benefit from consistency and boundaries. A dedicated study time prevents other activities from getting in the way—and even when your child has completed their daily assignments, it’s a good time to read or work on long-term projects, so that study becomes a non-optional part of the day.

5. Be attentive to what works and what doesn’t

Because every child is unique, the process of learning how to be helpful with study is going to be a process of trial and error. Nobody gets it completely right the first time (or the second, or the ten-thousandth), but you can always be looking for ways to make things better.

Don’t be afraid to try new activities or teaching methods—and when you do, pay attention to your child’s body language and verbal cues. Invite them to talk about the subjects and activities they enjoy, and why—as well as the ones they find difficult or boring. Above all, be flexible—when something works, keep doing it. When things go badly, try to identify the reason and make a change. It sounds obvious, but over time, that simple refining process can be life-changing.


Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.

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