Today I’d like to introduce you to another awesome blogger – Amy from KidsPlaySmarter.com! She’s got some great homework hacks to share with you for the new school year.
Parents, we know that homework can be a chore each night for both you and your child, but it really doesn’t have to be. I’m Amy Smith, a pediatric occupational therapist and the creator of KidsPlaySmarter.com, a new website designed for parents, teachers, and other therapists to help children become more successful in school and everyday life. I want to share some simple yet very effective tricks to help make homework a less painful experience for both you and your child.
Before we get into the tips, let’s talk about why your child may be resisting or struggling with homework. Your child has been asked to sit ALL day long at school (7-8 hours) with little opportunities for movement breaks and then comes home and has to sit even longer and do homework. Your child may be telling you (possibly through the use of bad behaviors), that he really needs to move more rather than sit! Our bodies are not designed to be sedentary that long and we begin to lose focus, attention, and concentration after sitting for long periods. So, your child’s begrudging behaviors about doing homework might possibly be an outward expression of how their internal system feels. So how do you accommodate your child’s need for movement with their need to complete their homework? Try these simple homework hacks!
Don’t do homework right after school
If you resist the urge to make your kids get their homework done right after school, you will find that your child will be re-energized, more focused, and attentive after a break between school and homework. The key to these breaks though is that it needs to be an ACTIVE break such as playing outdoors, bike riding, running, simple exercises, sports, etc… Your child’s body has been sitting all day long, so in order to help it re-charge and re-energize, it needs to move more! Plan for at least 30-60 minutes of active play before attempting to start homework. Your child should be much more focused and better suited to handle the frustrations of homework at that time.
Set scheduled work and break times
Unfortunately, many kids are getting too much homework from their teachers and consequently, it is taking them hours to complete it. Young children are increasingly spending too much time doing homework each night rather than playing, and it is simply not age appropriate. So, rather than trying to tackle the homework in one sitting, break it up. Discuss a work/break schedule with your child ahead of time so the task doesn’t seem quite as daunting. Set the schedule to correspond with your child’s age and developmental level (do shorter work times for younger children, longer for older kids). For example, set a timer and work with your child on the homework for 15 minutes, then do a 5 minute fun movement break with them (i.e. musical chairs, Simon Says, silly “minute to win it” games, etc..). Continue with the work/ break schedule until the homework is completed. Even with the extra time built in for the breaks, you will find your child is getting finished with homework quicker because they aren’t getting as frustrated.
Add movement into learning
Research has shown that when you add movement and a multi-sensory approach to learning, the information is retained longer than merely hearing or seeing the information. Plus, it will be more fun for your child and will help to break up the monotony of sitting. Here’s a few simple ways to add movement into learning:
- Jump and Learn Spelling Words
- Jumping Jack Spelling Words (they do a jumping jack for each letter in a spelling word)
- Math hops- (draw or tape lines of the floor and have your child hop forward or backward for addition/subtraction math problems
- Write in different positions -Tape your child’s paper to a wall and have them stand to write, Write while sitting on top of a therapy ball, or Write while laying on their belly, propped up on their arms.
Decrease visual distractions
Help your child feel less overwhelmed by a huge homework assignment by decreasing the visual “busy-ness” of the paper. This tip is especially beneficial for children with anxiety as they will be less distracted, overwhelmed, and frustrated if you minimize how much work is in their view. Here are a few suggestions on how to do that:
- Take a thick piece of paper to cover up the majority of the homework sheet, allowing only 1-2 questions to be visible at a time
- When reading, cut a small window out of a notecard and use that to allow for your child to see one word or problem at a time
- If your teacher is onboard, cut the homework paper up into smaller sections and give them to your child one at a time, then after all sections are finished, staple or tape the sections back together
Use of sensory tools and seating options
Even with active breaks and adding movement into learning, your child may still really struggle to sit still for periods of time. If that’s true for your child, then try incorporating sensory strategies to promote increased attention and focus. Here are a few that really work well!
- Use a compression vest or weighted vest- These help to re-assure your child of where its body is in space and elicits a calming response. If your child isn’t calm, he will have a much harder time being able to focus on school work
- Use a weighted blanket or lap pad- Similar to the weighted vests, these weighted blankets reinforce body awareness and are comforting and calming for kids which in turn promotes relaxation and the ability to focus.
- Use a wiggle seat- Wiggle seats are excellent outlets for kids to use to allow them to have the flexibility to move while still remaining contained in their seats
- Use a therapy ball chair- Therapy ball chairs also help with focus and attention because they also allow for movement but still contain your child in a seat.
Homework doesn’t have to be painful every night. These tips will help both you and your child tackle homework more quickly and confidently, and who knows, you both may have a little fun too! If you liked this article and want to get more tips from an occupational therapist on sensory regulation, fine and gross motor skills, handwriting help, and overall school success, please check out KidsPlaySmarter.com