Back-to-School Tips

Back to school — it’s a hectic time full of shopping, preparation, and new routines. However, just because children are headed back to school doesn’t mean that parents should stop teaching their children. And, just because life is hectic doesn’t mean you can’t make time to improve their literacy skills.

You may feel that there isn’t enough time to add more activities to an already packed 24 hours. But, these ideas take just a minute!

  • Choose a letter of the day. Look for the chosen letter in any printed materials you see — the newspaper, labels at the grocery store, street signs, billboards, or advertisements on TV. Make up a silly sentence using only words beginning with the letter of the day. (For example: Cats can cuddle. Dogs don’t drive. Amy always acts awake.)
  • Singing songs is certainly a literacy activity. Try this twist: Sing short songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” several times, leaving off the last word each time until there are no words left. This activity always produces giggles from children and parents alike.
  • While you’re waiting for the bagel to toast, have your child look for the letter B on any items on your kitchen counter or table. Count as many as possible before the toaster pops.
  • Play “Guess Who.” Describe a cartoon character, celebrity, or historical figure. Allow a guess after each detail is disclosed. Expand your child’s vocabulary by using unusual words, and then explain their meaning. Take turns. Listen carefully to your child’s descriptions, especially his or her choice of vocabulary. Encourage your child to paint a picture of the character with his or her words. At the end of the game, compliment your child on any unusual or new words used.
  • While stuck in traffic, describe the view from the car by taking “word turns.” The activity is as easy as the name suggests. Parent and child each add a word until the scene is described. (A… yellow… convertible… with… a… golden… retriever… in… the… back… seat… is… next… to… our… car.) This activity works well on a walk around the block or while waiting in line, too.
  • Talk to your child about his or her day. Pretend to be a television reporter. Try questions like “what was the most surprising (curious, funny, eventful) thing that happened today?” Or gather news for the local paper. “If your day’s activities were an article in the newspaper, what would the headline be?” You are giving your child opportunities to increase vocabulary, recall and reflect, and you are receiving a more detailed version of the time you spent apart. Be prepared to answer the same questions. You and your child will begin looking for events to report to each other.