At age five, girls are able to sit still and listen about 2.5 times longer than boys, according to studies.
But we don’t need research to tell us that most boys would rather get up and move around than sit and read.
Here are some great ways to keep active kids happy while they’re learning. (Statistically, this tends to be a boy issue–so we’re using the male pronoun–but if you’ve got an active girl these tips will apply just as well.)
1) LET HIM MOVE. Let your son play with a ball while you read to him. Having a ball to quietly hold and catch helps lots of kids concentrate better.
2) INTERRUPT THE STORY. When you come to a plot point, stop and ask him, “why do you think that happened?” or “what do you think that meant?” Not only does it help with comprehension, but it breaks up the monotony of listening.
3) GO OUTSIDE. It’s called “environmental literacy” – finding things to read outside. There are tons of signs and advertisements to read out there, and even word puzzles to figure out. What does that parking sign mean? When can you park here? How much is parking? What is that an ad for? Do you believe the ad? He’ll have to read carefully to figure out the answers.
4) MAKE EVERYTHING A CONTEST. Active kids, and especially kids who like sports, love to be timed, challenged, and rewarded. When you play literacy games, getting out a stopwatch can bring the right measure of fun competition to it.
5) PLAY ACTIVE GAMES. Take a long strip of paper – say four feet long by four inches high (or several strips). In marker, write a sentence on it. Then cut the sentence up into words. Hide the words around your backyard or playground. Have the child run around and collect the words, bringing each one back to you when it’s found, before running out and getting the next one. When he has them all, he can piece them all into a sentence. Time him and see if he can do it faster the second time around.
6) HOST A TREASURE HUNT. Use signs to lead your child up to his bedroom, across to his dresser, over to the bathroom, down to the basement, into a closet, up to the attic, into the fridge… and then over to the dining room table, where he’ll find his treat (chocolate, or a wrapped book, or some other small reward). It’s a great game that combines reading with physical activity.
7) WRITE A STORY WHILE YOU’RE WALKING. Schedule a long walk, just the two of you. While you’re walking, lead him to create a story – with characters, an interesting setting and a couple of plot points.
Extending this activity: When you get back home, he can dictate the story so you can write it down, or he can type it up. Make it into a book and add illustrations. He’ll have something tangible that he has created.
This post is part of the Literacy Blog Tour (March 8-14, 2010) – welcome tourists! We hope you’ll be back again and again.