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Feature Articles — Child Care


Ready, Set, Go Back to School

Leanne Spengler, former Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


As the child’s first teacher, parents have the responsibility of nurturing their child’s potential. This includes understanding the child’s needs and then supporting the child’s learning efforts.

Understanding learning style

What do you know about your child’s learning style?

Early in life, children show personality traits and preferences for what they like and dislike. By planning learning opportunities with your child’s unique personality styles in mind, you raise his level of confidence and success.

Understanding when a child is ready to learn may mean the difference between success and frustration. As with other areas of development, children have their own unique rate of development.

Supporting learning efforts

The learning environment is also an important factor in the learning process. The goal is to provide the best conditions for learning and to balance conditions when learning is hindered. The following suggestions may be helpful to parents for providing appropriate learning environments:


  • Demonstrate or model behavior yourself by setting the examples you want your child to follow. Organize and prepare as much as possible the night before by making lunches, gathering materials that go back to school or work, and getting clothes ready. Establish a ‘rise and shine’ routine for the whole family including individual alarm clocks and responsibilities for getting up.
  • Provide reassuring routines. Knowing what to expect can prevent the problems and stresses of sudden change. Keep the ‘before school’ and ‘after school’ routines as consistent as possible. Make sure that these routines allow for adequate sleep and nourishment.
  • Parents can anticipate difficulties and frustrations from the knowledge they have about their child. Use the information to provide guidance, encouragement and an environment to help the child manage the situation.
    • Introduce new concepts gradually and allow the child to work at his own pace. Provide your child with easy-to-follow directions for doing everyday activities and household tasks.
    • Provide guidance and encouragement to solve the problem without losing control. Try to make the last words your child hears positive, especially on her way to school in the morning. When you and your child are back home in the evening, ask specific questions about your child’s day. If you find it difficult to get more than ‘uh-huh’ or ‘nope’ for an answer, use questions like “What happened in school today that you thought was interesting?” or “What are some upcoming activities or projects?” to stimulate conversation.
    • Change the activity, situation or surroundings when needed. Distractions and boredom are potential hazards to learning. Having a supply of markers, scissors, paper and a dictionary/thesaurus (even if you have a computer) may be helpful in developing imagination and hidden talents in your child. You also need to be careful about over-stimulating your child.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Parents can naturally become so emotionally involved that an accurate picture of the situation is not possible. The school can be a source of help and support. Many school professionals have special training about children’s learning and they can provide information and guidance for making decisions. Parents are also experts as they know their child better than anyone else, know their own limitations, and know what their child needs.


Crary, Elizabeth. (1990). Pick Up Your Socks… and other skills growing children need! Seattle, WA: Parenting Press.

Gable, Sara. (1997). Nurturing Children’s Talents. [publication GH6127]. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Extension.

Peel, Kathy & Mahaffey, Joy. (1990). A Mother’s Manual for Schoolday Survival. Pomona, CA: Focus on the Family Publishing.

Turecki, Stanley. Presentations at the Practical Parenting Partnerships conference, March, 1998. [231 East 76th Street, Suite 1B, New York, NY 10021; 212-517-9092].


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Last update: Tuesday, June 24, 2014