With the return of school in September we often hear from parents that children are struggling to settle back into the homework routine after sitting for a log day in school. During the summer month the weather is nicer and typically children are running around outside, they are climbing and hanging and naturally meeting all their sensory needs through normal day to day activities.
When they return to school they are suddenly required to sit still in class and concentrate on lessons for six hours a day. While they get some short break at lunchtime there are not always opportunities in the school playground for high powered regulating activities such as climbing and hanging. It is also a loud and busy environment which can be more overwhelming for children than regulating.
Below are some simple tips that can be incorporated into your evening to help with the homework routine:
Pick the best time for homework. Every child is different and there will be different times to suit each child when it comes to homework. Some children need to get homework out of the way as soon as they get in from school, so they can enjoy the remainder of the evening and other children ae exhausted from the mental challenges of school and need a break before launching into homework. Work with your child to determine the best time for them.
Choose the right environment. It is important to look at the area where your child is doing homework. Is there background noise? Is the TV on? Are they well supported in their seat? When your doing homework you will easily find anything thing else in the environment to be more interesting than the work in front of you. Try to find a quiet environment with no distractions. A table facing the wall in a quiet room is best!
Check seating! It goes without saying that our children are generally smaller than us and often we hear that homework is being completed at the kitchen table or at a breakfast bar. It’s important to ensure that out children are properly supported when they are completing handwriting tasks. The table needs to be low enough so that they are not reaching up to complete handwriting. We also need to ensure that they can sit with their feet fully supported. You can buy grower chairs such as the Tripp trap chair which can be adjusted as your child grows. Alternatively, you can add a booster to your chair if it is too low and a step on the ground that your child can put their feet on.
Organisation helps! It’s important to ensure that the table does not get cluttered. Each time your child finishes a task get them to close the books and clear them back into their bag. this gives them a sense of success and lets them feel that they are moving through their homework. It you start with a pile of tasks to be completed they will also visually see this reducing as they progress through homework.
Split the tasks. Alternate between writing and reading tasks. This will give small hands a break and a chance to rest rather than getting tired or sore and resisting written tasks.
Allow them to move. As mentioned above children are sitting for prolonged periods of time through the day and often struggling to sit still when completing homework. Allow this movement during homework time. Often it helps to have a resistance loop band on the front two legs of the chair, so the child can stretch their legs against thins and get resistance during both oral and written tasks. During oral tasks such as spellings, reading, tables etc you can allow full body movement. Some children like to bounce or role on a gym ball when completing these tasks and others like to bounce or catch and throw a ball during these tasks. As long as they are learning you have met the aim so allow them to build in sensory experiences at this time if it helps as it will also help when they are writing.
Positive interaction. We are tasked with the job of reviewing or correcting homework and often we see this as ensuring there are no mistakes. Rather than focusing on the correction element of homework change the dialogue to positive feedback. Find the best sentence the child has written and encourage them to do the same. This turns homework into a positive experience and will make children more likely to put more effort in. We all find criticism disheartening and compliments encouraging. Homework should be a positive experience both you and your child.
Reward! Your child has been in school all day and then had to sit for homework. Give them something nice to look forward to after dinner. This can be their choice or programme or a game they like to play or even going out to play with friends. Try to give something good when they have finished homework rather than just going into the routine of household chores and routines.
Try these tips and you may even come up with some of your own that work specifically for you and your child. Remember to follow your child’s lead for what works for them because the strategies that you use are not always the best for your child.
Amanda Kelly, Senior Occupational Therapist at Sensational Kids
Sensational Kids CLG 2018