Supporting the development of your school age child
Being parents of schoolchildren involves more than making sure homework gets done. Here is our best advice on how to support your child’s developmental needs through the school years.
Are you one of the many proud parents whose children started school this autumn? The transition to “big school” is one of the biggest in a child’s life, and a milestone in his or her development. So how can you as a parent be the best guide on this exciting journey, and provide the appropriate framework for your little person?
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Children need sleep to develop
All parents know that children need to be rested to be able to concentrate and take in information. There are individual differences between how much sleep children need but 10 to 11 hours is suitable for most between three years and puberty. But did you know that children sleep 1 to 1.5 hours longer with good routines and a regular bedtime? Good bedtime routines will help to calm a child, and may involve being read or sung to in bed. Some experts also think it’s important for children to learn to fall asleep without their parents in the room because they say this leads to longer and more continuous sleep. The old rule that eight year olds should go to bed at eight, older children fifteen minutes later each year, and that no child should be up past half past nine, is just as relevant today.
Nutrition for learning
A varied and nutritious diet based on lots of fish, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products is a good basis for child development and ensures your children have enough energy throughout the school day. This also applies to the lunch box. Bread, preferably wholegrain, may be varied with things like whole grain pizza slices and wholegrain wraps or rolls. Fresh fruit and yoghurt with no added sugar make good packed snacks.
If your child has a healthy diet, it’s usually completely unnecessary to add supplements. The only exception is a vitamin D supplement, which is recommended by the Health Department for children from four weeks onward. Cod liver oil is the best option because it also contains the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA contributes to optimal brain function and should therefore be a part of your child’s diet during the important school years.
Get involved at school
The role of parents in their children’s education has long been recognised as a significant factor in educational success and school improvement. According to research, when parents have an active role in the school, it leads to better outcomes of learning, better self-control, fewer behaviour problems, less absenteeism, good relationships with peers and teachers, better work habits, a more positive attitude towards school, better homework habits and higher ambitions regarding education.
Discover special needs early
Special needs, such as delayed language development, should be discovered as early as possible so your child gets help at an early stage. These things are often discovered by health and nursery staff, but if you are in doubt as to whether your child may have special needs, contact your GP. And don`t be afraid to consult with the health services at school if you have questions about vision, hearing or other aspects of your child`s development.
Look at the curriculum
You can get an overview of the National Curriculum, which outlines what children should learn at different years at the Department for Education website. Take a look at the curriculum, if you want to know what it is worth focusing on for your child.
Their own place to work at home
Schoolchildren need a place to do homework. Let children decide where that place should be and what it should look like so that they are motivated to work there.