Family traditions -- whether they've been in place for generations or months -- establish consistency in kids' lives. Thinking back, you may wax nostalgic about those yearly camping trips with a parent or special meals made with close relatives.
These events not only carry personal significance, they can also enhance children's learning and progress in school. Regardless of whether you're maintaining family traditions or are trying to create new ones, the key to making them stick is partaking in them alongside your child.
Before we dive into customs that can help children in school, keep in mind that every family is different, so traditions will vary as well. There's nothing wrong with injecting your own personality into these tips or devising new practices along the way.
First up: the importance of meshing new habits with routine.
Children respond well to routines, and there's nothing wrong with disguising them as fun traditions. For instance, reading to kids before bedtime not only establishes the routine of going to bed at a certain time, but it also offers the reward and anticipation of doing an interactive activity before bed.
Research also shows that children who are exposed to letters, words and their meanings tend to pick up on reading and writing skills easier in the classroom, an advantage especially important for kids learning to read in early elementary school [source: National Educational Association ]. There's even evidence showing that reading to a child as early as six months of age has advantages, too [source: U.S. Department of Education].
Another benefit of routines -- such as eating breakfast with your child every day -- is providing him or her with the social time he or she needs to feel confident and focus on school that day. Over time, family traditions such as eating together give children the opportunity to regularly talk about their studies and potential problems with their schooling.
Moving family traditions outside of the home can be both exciting and educational. Head over to the next page to learn more.
Educational family traditions may be as simple as visiting a museum, zoo or park every month.
Self-directed educational outings, often considered a type of free-choice learning that allows families to pursue their interests outside of school, expose children to topics they might not have the time to learn about extensively in the classroom. Research has shown that families benefit from hands-on learning experiences at museums, aquariums and zoos [source: Dierking et al.].
In fact, one study shows that kids may prefer learning at museums with their families and friends instead of classmates and teachers [source: Jensen]. Parents can coordinate outings to complement what's being taught in the classroom as well. Local colleges and museums are good places to start looking for educational events suitable for kids.
But who said the outings had to only offer perks to younger crowds? Adolescents and adults reap the benefits of enjoying this type of learning as well.
Learning the ins and outs of the scientific method can be tricky. Find out more about how to add science-fair flare to your family traditions on the next page.
School laboratories aren't the only places where kids can learn about science. Partaking in a weekly or monthly at-home science experiment will help improve kids' analytical thinking skills for school.
First, ask your kid about a project he or she would like to explore. Then, create a hypothesis about what would happen if that particular question were tested. It's important to oversee and conduct the experiment with your kid, having him or her record the experiment's progress and results. And don't forget the most important part -- checking back to see if the outcome agrees or disagrees with the original hypothesis. Voila! You've just walked through the scientific method, a framework all children learn in science class at school.
Inquiring into the nature of things feeds into kids natural curiosity and will help them better understand experiments performed with their teachers in class. Just like other family traditions, at-home science nights can quickly evolve into events your child looks forward to doing with you.
If you want to really solidify this tradition, take advantage of entering annual community or regional science fairs (just make sure you're guiding your child's work, not doing it for him or her).
Family traditions are at their finest during holidays. But how can you make them both educational and exciting for your kid? Click to the following page to find out.
If only your kid approached homework with the same enthusiasm deployed writing to Santa's workshop at the North Pole every year. But don't despair; there are ways to channel this energy to create educational and fun activities that can help children in school.
Parents can channel their children's interests in holidays by teaching the history and significance of the celebrations. Take the first Thanksgiving, for example. The yearly observance stems from Europeans joining with Native Americans in a feast and thanking God for helping them survive in the New World. What may begin as learning about the Mayflower may result in your child inquiring more about the culture and history of a local Native American tribe.
Exploring holidays could also give kids a wider perspective of why people with different cultural and religious backgrounds celebrate certain holidays and not others. Priming children to think outside their own family traditions and culture can help them better grasp ideas in school that seem unusual or unfamiliar.
In addition, learning the roots of holidays gives children a better understanding of what the holiday means, especially if he or she has a superficial understanding and only associates the celebration with gifts.
Head over to the following page to see how incentives can evolve into family traditions.
Though you are the final authority, it's important that you include your child in the process of making rules or establishing a reward system. This allows for your child to know what's expected as well as where you're coming from as a parent or caregiver [source: Tanner Nelson].
Nothing reinforces the importance of doing well in school like offering merit-based rewards for good work. Oftentimes, these special treats and activities are a part of a larger family tradition to examine a child's progress at the end of his or her unit or school year.
Your family's tradition may also include setting goals for certain milestones, including progress reports, throughout the school year. For instance, you may challenge your child to receive all A's or B's for each report card at the beginning of the year, checking back regularly to make sure he or she is on track. If you plan to devise a family tradition for good grades, remember to establish what the reward is beforehand, as it will give your child something to work toward. A fun outing or dinner, special toys and recreational classes are all fun reward options.
Keeping records of grades helps kids see how they're doing and lets parents know when they might need to speak with a teacher about their children's progress.
Find more resources on educational family traditions as well as other schooling content on the next page.
What are good traditions for families during the summer? Read about 5 summertime family traditions at HowStuffWorks.
- Dierking, Lynn, Luke, Jessica, Foat, Kathryn, & Adelman, Leslie. "The Family and Free-Choice Learning." American Association of Museums. 2001. (Aug. 4, 2011) http://www.aam-us.org/pubs/mn/MN_ND01_FamilyLearning.cfm
- Jensen, Nina. "Children's perceptions of their museum experiences: A contextual perspective." Children's Environments. 11, 4. 300-324. 1994. (July 31, 2011) http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1995-24595-001
- National Education Association. "A Parent's Guide to Helping Your Child Learn to Read." National Education Association. (July 31, 2011) http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/44013_NEA_W_L2.pdf
- National Education Association. "A Parent's Guide to Raising Scientifically Literate Children." National Education Association. (July 31, 2011) http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/44013_NEA_W_L10.pdf
- PBS Kids. "Make an Egg Float." ZOOM. (July 31, 2011) http://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/sci/makeaneggfloat.html
- Tanner Nelson, Patricia. "How Parents can Help Their Kids be Successful in School." University of Delaware, Cooperative Extension. (July 31, 2011) http://ag.udel.edu/extension/fam/FM/issue/successschool.htm
- U.S. Department of Education. "Reading Tips for Parents." Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs, Educational Partnerships and Family Involvement Unit, Washington, D.C. 2003. (Aug. 4, 2011) http://www2.ed.gov/parents/read/resources/readingtips/readingtips.pdf