With back-to-school season in full swing, it can be challenging to balance your child’s schedule with schoolwork, sports, spirit events and fun time. Every aspect of your little one’s life, from education to socialization, is extremely important. Rather than scrambling around to fit it all in, try setting a few routines and rules in place this fall that will carry your kids through their school years and beyond. Here are a few of our favorite tips for balancing fun and learning in your little ones’ lives.
Set Limits on Screen Time
Nowadays, many children learn how to download apps on their iPads long before they start Pre-K. Love it or hate it, technology is becoming a huge part of our little ones’ livelihoods, and some sort of electronic device is pretty much required for school. These amazing learning tools can also serve as huge distractions for people of all ages, plus they can encourage users to stay isolated from their peers. Rather than revoking screen time altogether, try implementing set limitations and realistic rules about the bright little screens in your family’s life.
- Set Clear Rules. Whether it’s one hour per day, “no devices until after homework,” or something in between, find the technology rules that work best for your routine and be sure to stick to them! Setting clear and firm boundaries now will help the kids log off and focus when they need to rather than engaging in the ever-famous “five more minutes?” negotiations.
- Practice What You Preach. While it’s easy to look at our kids and surmise that they spend entirely too much time on the computer, it’s important to remember that most adults are on the phone, iPad or other device nearly all of their waking hours. Whether it’s work emails, Pinterest or the latest Netflix binge, we can get lost in the screen too! Kids often learn by example, even when we don’t realize they’re watching. Try to follow the same rules you set for the kids when it comes to electronics. This will make them much more likely to follow rules and set limits on their favorite apps or TV shows.
Make Time (and Space) for Homework
Homework can be a daunting task for children and parents alike, especially when your student comes home and announces they have a test or project due the very next morning. Avoid procrastination and subsequent panic by establishing some healthy learning routines early in the school year.
- Designate a Study Space. Have you ever spent a hectic school morning trying to track down last night’s homework or show-and-tell item? For many kids, organization can be a difficult habit to master. Set them on the right track by creating or assigning a special study space for homework, flashcards, supplies and a calendar. If you do homework at the kitchen table every night, clear out a drawer or cubby for supplies and stick a calendar up on the wall. If they have a desk in their bedroom or play area, be sure to clearly mark storage space for these important items, and work with them to keep these spaces neat. If they always finish their math homework at their desk, chances are you’ll be able to find it pretty quickly the morning it’s due.
- Encourage Good Study Habits. No matter your age or vocation, procrastination is seemingly a part of life. You may tell yourself you’ll do things ‘early’ only to end up scrambling around the night before or even the morning of your due date. Help your children kick this pesky habit at a young age. Designate allotted homework time each and every night so that they’re working on assignments at a realistic pace. No homework assignment? Kids can use their nightly work time to prepare flash cards or work on the month-long art project that’s due next week. These habits are helpful in elementary school, but will become vital as your child grows up, making an early start extremely beneficial for your young learners.
Discover Fun, Family-Friendly Learning Opportunities
School is important, but having fun and discovering the world organically is an essential part of your child’s development. When it’s time to put down the books for the weekend, encourage creativity, social activities and organic learning instead of reverting back the endless hours of screen time.
- Visit an Interactive Learning Center. The North Texas area is full of learning attractions that are fun for the entire family! Interactive museums like the Perot or Heritage Farmstead Museum offer a perfect balance of education and fun.
- Encourage Social Activities. While traditional ‘learning’ is important, you shouldn’t overlook the invaluable social and cultural discoveries your children make when they meet new people and interact with one another. Regular visits to the park, day care and fun play spaces like Jungle Joe’s give your kids a chance to learn and grow with their peers; an experience they definitely can’t get from a book!