Personalized Children's Books
3 Easy Ways to Help Your Child Get Ahead
Like most parents, you want your child to grow up to be happy, healthy, and successful. In fact, there probably isn't much you wouldn't do for your lil' cutie to ensure that outcome. Right? But with budget and overbooked schedules to worry about, wouldn't it be nice to know that the decisions you make for your child are the right ones?
Here's some good news: You can help your child get ahead in life, and all it takes is a small investment of your time every day. The secret to raising a happy, healthy, and successful child is to provide them with a safe environment, good nutrition, physical activity, and a loving relationship from an early age. Fundamental to that loving relationship is focusing on spending meaningful quality time with your child each day. What you do with that quality time is the key!
As publishers of bilingual and single-language personalized children's books, we recommend incorporating reading with your child into your daily routine -- it truly is the single best investment of time you can make. (And remember that it's never too early to start reading with your child.) According to a report by Derry Koralek from Reading is Fundamental, reading to children from a young age helps expand both their vocabulary and comprehension of the world. When hearing you read, your child learns the correct pronunciation of words, which helps them acquire speaking skills. (1) They also begin to understand proper grammar and sentence structure.
Children love to imitate what they see adults doing. If you read to your child in an enthusiastic way, your attitude and excitement is transmitted to your child, which will likely lead to their own appreciation for and interest in books. Another benefit mentioned in the report is that by reading to your child, you are encouraging their thinking of other cultures, historical periods, and experiences. This, in turn, builds their empathy skills. (2)
It is undeniable that reading to children and fomenting their own love of reading helps children to get ahead. Reading with your child for just 20 minutes a day every day will expose them to 1.8 million words each year. Studies have also shown that when you read with your child regularly, test scores increase (3); higher test scores can be attributed to the fact that reading enhances memory (4), vocabulary, and even mathematical ability. (5)
A study conducted by the University of Kansas professors Betty Hart and Todd Risley found that by age three, children whose parents spoke to them with a 2,150 words per hour average were exposed to millions of more words than children who spoke to them less. The researchers extrapolated that if parents talked more to their children, this disparity in word exposure would decrease. Although the finding made this train of thought dominant amongst educators and policy makers, newer research suggests different ways to close the word gap between children, the best of which is reading aloud to your child.
Professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Dominic Massaro, found that when children read picture books, they are two to three times more likely to encounter words that are not part of the 5,000 most common English words than they would by just conversing with their parents. This is important because having a broad and varied vocabulary will positively impact their reading skills in the future, as reading requires familiarity with a word in order to decode it.
Another way you can help your child live a life filled with joy, achievement and good health is by engaging in physical activity with your child; it is such a critical aspect of your child’s life, for it can affect cognitive and behavioral skills, as well as health habits and issues down the road. Our schools, and those of most countries, restrict children’s access to the outdoors, but this actually counter-productive for school children. A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport in 2017 found that two factors directly impact a child’s reading and arithmetic abilities: 1) time spent engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and 2) time spent being sedentary. The less moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a child gets combined with a greater amount of sedentary time, the more negative impact to their ability to read and do math. (6)
The World Health Organization recommends children and teenagers, between the ages of 5 and 15, exercise by performing moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity for 60 minutes a day for optimal health benefits. (7) It's important to note that most of the activity should be aerobic. (8)
Ways in which you can encourage physical activity for your children: (9)
1. Be active yourself! Children are always paying attention to parents' activities and will pick up on your exercise habits.
2. Incorporate mindless exercise into your children's routine by walking or riding a bicycle as means of transportation.
3. Sign you children up for sports teams. This is a great way to teach children teamwork and patience as well. (To help prepare your child for participation in sports teams or classes, check out our award-winning, sports themed personalized children's books.)
4. Invite other children to play. Whether this be a trip to the backyard or a walk to the park, including more people for your child to play with will bring out their competitive side and keep them more engaged.
5. Plan physical activities on your trips and vacations. Ensuring that the whole family partakes in outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, or even walking or playing frisbee on the beach, is a great way to motivate children to be active while strengthening family bonds.
Making Time Spent Together Doubly Valuable: Teaching Moments
You can make spending time with your child really count by turning it into teaching moments. Instead of regularly sitting on the couch watching television (which is totally fine once in a while), you can engage with your child and get things crossed of your to-do list while creating fun and lasting memories with your child. Below are some ideas of how to make time spent with your child count as teaching experiences.
We already touched on the importance of reading, so this first tip will come as no surprise. Not sure you'll have much energy after a long day at work? Promise that the two of you will cuddle up on the couch together and read your child's favorite storybook. Not only will this help them build their vocabulary, but if you can pause while reading to ask questions, you can also help your child get more out of the book and better prepare for school. Your asking what they think will happen next or why they think something happened helps them to be creative and think critically.
Preparing dinner can be another ordinary activity that can become a teaching moment. If you invite your child to help in the preparation, you can talk about the science and chemical reactions involved in baking; or you can teach your child about the numbers and fractions in the recipe as they help gather and measure the ingredients. You can also use this time to talk about baking or cooking with your own parents and grandparents, thereby teaching your kids about family traditions and customs. Even talking about the food you're going to eat is helpful. Spending time in the kitchen can help you learn what kinds of foods and dishes your child likes the most (which will hopefully mean fewer fights about finishing their meal). At the very least, getting to know each other better helps to strengthen parent-child relationships.
If you need to go to the grocery store, your child can practice their numbers by finding the correct isles or reading the price on the can of peas. Similarly, you can talk numbers and teach them the cost of a can of peas as compared to other items. You can also talk about where we get our peas from and the whole trip the peas take from the fields to the grocery store shelves. You can also take this opportunity to 1) talk to them about the importance of eating nutritious foods, and 2) teach them that fruits and vegetables are delicious. Pro tip: skip trips to the candy and sweets isles to avoid temptation.
When you run into someone you know, use the moment to teach your child to make eye contact and instill good manners. (10) Instruct them to acknowledge the person in front of you by greeting them with a "hello" or a "nice to see you." Do not underestimate the importance of good manners - they will always be in style! Remember that your child's ability to say "please" and "thank you" will also depend on what they see and hear you do. If your child sees you engage in a friendly and polite way towards others, they are more prone to. engage in similar behavior. This can also be a great way to encourage your child to become comfortable making conversation and answering basic questions to improve their communication skills.
Ultimately, the most important thing to do is to spend as much quality time with your child as your schedule permits. When together, be present: listen to your child, encourage their creativity and inquisitiveness, tell them you love them, and teach them to be kind and compassionate. Reading to your children, instilling a love of books and for the outdoors, and turning everyday moments into fun, teachable experiences are great ways to help your child get ahead. But don't forget to top it all off with lots of hugs and kisses - when your child feels loved and safe, they will be more receptive to learning whatever you want to teach them.
Please let us know in the comments which of these tips were useful to you and helped you aid your child to become the very best version of themself.
For more about Yazmín, please visit her author page.