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10 ways to help young kids get ahead before starting school

Mums, dads and carers: want to help your child learn and have fun this summer? Top child psychologist Dr Elizabeth Kilbey has developed ten top tips to help your young kids – especially those starting school in September – to get ahead over the holidays.

1. Help them focus

Concentration is a crucial skill that really helps kids learn at school. Encourage your child to play games and do things that need focus – like tying shoes laces, completing puzzles or asking them to remember up to 10 items on a shopping list.

2. Don’t let them leave it half done

Evidence shows that many children – particularly boys – will give up on a task if they don’t think they’re doing it well. But don’t let them walk away – challenge them to finish. Extra praise for completing something they find hard will boost their confidence and help them do well when they’re at school.

3. Read, read, read

Reading helps develop language, concentration and confidence. Create a summer reading list with your child to complete before the end of the holidays.

4. Make them laugh

When you read, use silly voices, accents and characters. Children are far more likely to pay attention and take things in if they’re having fun while they learn.

5. Cook together

Roll up your sleeves and get your kids cooking with you in the kitchen. Things like helping you weigh out ingredients is a great way for your child to learn, develop their hand eye coordination and have fun (plus you get to eat the yummy things you make!).

6. Play shop keepers

Set up a mock shop in your front room. Make paper money and shopping lists, and grab tins and packets from the kitchen. Encourage your child to “buy” everything from the shopping list – encourage them to draw each item, count the money and identify different colours and letters on packets.

7. A letter a day

If you’ve got a pre-schooler, choose a letter and get them to look out for all the words that begin with it as you read to them. When out and about you can keep looking together for the same letter – on signs, bus stops, shop fronts, etc. Do this every day throughout the summer holidays and you’ll cover the alphabet.

8. Keep it short

If you’ve got a toddler, keep your sentences short and simple. Use sentences that are one word longer than your child tends to use. So, if they mainly speak in one-word sentences, use two words. This helps their understanding and teaches them what to aim for next.

9. Listen

Take time to listen to what your pre-school child is trying to tell you and respond to them. Chat with them about what’s happening around them that day.

10. Give them time

Give your child plenty of time to respond when you’re talking with them. Young children take time to understand what you’ve said and to plan what they want to say.

We’re asking politicians across the UK to do more to support children in the early years of their life. Find out more and join our call.

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