Five good habits to get into for the new term

This article was first published in January 2020

It's a new year, a new school term, but is it a new you? If you have a child at school and want to incorporate some new, simple habits to boost their learning and creativity, here are five of the best for you to try.

1. Love your library


It’s proven that one of the best habits to support a child’s learning is reading – essential for developing their language and literacy skills. What better way to encourage this than regular trips to your local library?

After setting up their very own library card (a lot of libraries will set up an account for any aged child, as long as they are accompanied by an adult), your child can pick their reading for the week, whether that’s a picture book, a comic, a magazine, fiction, or non-fiction – it all counts!

Many libraries also offer free children’s clubs, events, and learning schemes, so have a look and see what’s on.

2. Be brave and try new things


Resilience is an important trait for any child, allowing them to persist in their goals and discover, then develop, their passions.

Skimming stones is a good example. It’s a skill that you can pick up in half an hour or less, but very few get it right in their first few tries. It takes resilience and a good grasp of failure to make it past those first few tries and onto success. And this applies to any skill - from counting to karate.

So, how do you teach your child resilience? Show them that the process of trying new things, failing, and then trying again is actually positive and important for growing as a person – in short, be brave, try new things yourself, and remember, making mistakes is how we learn!

If this is something you can do together, great, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you talk about your improvements and how you reached them, it will be a valuable lesson for your child that they can take into school and beyond.

3. Chat, chat, chat!


A very simple idea, but so important. Talk to your child after school and show them that they can approach you and share whatever they need to share – about schoolwork, friendships or anything in between.

Easier said than done, of course, but here are some simple ways to encourage it…

The classic ‘How was your day?’ is a bit too open-ended for young children and can often result in a one-word answer, so try and be a little more specific. Ask what lessons they had, or who they played with at lunchtime. This could lead them into a broader conversation.

Similarly, talk about homework, artwork, or anything else they bring home from school. This could be a precious insight into how their mind works while they’re in the classroom, and may help you identify how you can support them in their learning.

You could also tell them about your day. A few details to model how you’d like to talk to each other would be great – just remember not to go overboard: leave them time to speak!

4. Ditch the screens before bedtime


How screen time affects young children continues to be a hot topic - whilst some leading paediatricians claim that using screens sporadically isn’t harmful in itself to children, many recommend that the hour before bedtime should be as screen-free as possible, as this can help your child to fall into an easier sleep, unhindered by the blue light emitted by screens. And you’ll have heard it a thousand times before – a good night’s sleep really does do wonders for your child the next day at school, so it’s a great idea to do everything you can to help this.

Yet again, leading by example is the best form of action; if you have your phone or tablet out just before they go to bed, it will be all the more difficult to tell your child to put one away. So, you can make things easier by filling your house with screen-free alternatives, like books, board games, and drawing or writing material, and then you can use them yourself. This behaviour will catch on quickly!

5. Be creative together


A lot of schoolwork requires creative thinking and there’s no better way to boost your child’s creativity than setting up new opportunities to be creative at home.

Your child is never too young to help with the cooking, every now and then – even if it’s just child-friendly tasks like mixing or pouring. You could even ask their opinion. ‘What do you think we could add to this Spag Bol to make it better?’ ‘What shape should we make these biscuits?’ You don’t have to take all of their suggestions, of course, but the discussions will be really helpful for your child.

If cooking isn’t your thing, you could get crafty (papier-mâché will never go out of style), colour, draw, or make up a story together – there are loads of possibilities - see which one suits your child best.

For further information check out the rest of Starting Primary School which has lots of ways to help prepare children for different aspects of school life – both practically and emotionally.

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Louise Pentland’s five tips to get you through the school year
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