The key is to make learning a game. The more game-like learning is, the more likely the child is to want to participate. If the child can use her hands or whole body, learning will seem more like a game. Try these strategies:
- Let the child put a star or some other sticker on the corner of an alphabet card when the child knows a letter. Or if the child is reading a book you own, let the child paste a star on each page she can read. The child will enjoy pasting the star, will have visible proof of learning, and will have something concrete to prove progress for Dad or Grandma.
- Let the child stamp alphabet cards with the date when the child knows them. Remember how the librarian used to stamp the books with the return date? Those kinds of stamps are still available at office supply stores. (You can buy a deck of alphabet cards for a dollar or two at dollar stores, so don’t be concerned if the cards are defaced.)
- Let the child hit or shake some kind of noisemaker for a successful answer.
- If you play BINGO letter or word games, ask the child to create or accumulate the markers. Plastic caps from milk or juice containers, Barbie doll high heels, shapes that the child has colored and cut, coins, stamps cut off of envelopes—let the child decide what markers to use today. What fun to cover a BINGO card with Angry Birds and pigs.
- As the child begins to read books, let the child underline the words she knows in pencil or highlight them with markers. Read the same book a week later and let the child underline in a different color. Do it a week later with a third color. The child should notice more and more underlined words. (You can buy used children’s books for a dollar or two at Goodwill and other resale stores, so don’t fret if the books are marked.)
- Let the child write his name or other words on the refrigerator using magnetized letters. Point out the work proudly to family members.
- On the computer, pull up a blank page and let the child hunt and peck for ABC’s or the letters of his name. Use a large font—size 36 or bigger. Vary the color of the ink and the type faces. Print the page and display it proudly.
- For reluctant learners, use a kitchen timer to limit the time for any learning activity. Usually, the younger the child, the shorter the time. Five minutes might be long enough. Let your child’s behavior guide you.