Read aloud to and with your child. It is important to continue reading aloud long after your child has learned to read independently. Read classic children’s literature as well as a variety of nonfiction from sources such as National Geographic and your newspaper. “Old-fashioned” natural history books by authors such as Wilfrid S. Bronson and Ernest Thompson Seton are treasure troves of delightfully written stories about animals and the natural world, and the illustrations are beyond compare. Age-appropriate biography is an excellent way to infuse history into your nonfiction mix and to ease gently into discussions about difficult topics such as war, slavery, oppression, and natural disasters.
To support your child’s learning in math, use math games and number conversations. Ask your child’s teacher for appropriate games and how to gear them to your child’s level. The games should be playful, and not played for speed or in the form of tests or drill. Talking about money, playing money exchange games, and letting your child help you figure out prices and how to make change are great ways to develop math skills, as are games with dice and cards. Try not to ask testing or “fact” questions.
To support second language learning when you are not a speaker of the language, ask your child’s teacher for resources. Get books with an audio component. We do not encourage screens, but if you need a moment of distraction, use it as an opportunity to find short cartoon episodes in French or Mandarin. Find videos online in French and Mandarin of classic stories such as the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. Your child knows the story already, and can follow along. Native language favorites are Trotro, Tchoupi, and Petit Ours Brun, as well as Da Tou Er Zi (Big Head Son, Small Head Father), and the episodes are between 3 and 30 minutes long. Many movies in English will have a French track available.
In general and for children of all ages, mazes, origami, and activities involving cutting, folding, and gluing are a fun way to exercise fine hand muscles and practice hand-eye coordination. Puzzles, logic games, building with blocks or Lego, and board games are perfect for brain development, as well as family fun.