In addition to doing homework, your child should spend time reading not only with you, but on his own as well. If a child finds pleasure in reading, it will become a lifelong habit. His teacher or school librarian can help you and your youngster select some books for leisure reading. Make sure he has a card at the public library as well. Also, if he would like and if you can afford it, join a children's book club or subscribe to a magazine for children in the appropriate age group (such as Boys' Life, Highlights for Children, National Geographic Kids, Stone Soup). If your youngster sees you reading regularly, there is a good chance that he will follow your lead and sit down with a book himself. Set aside some time to talk with him about what each of you is reading. If you have been regularly reading aloud to your youngster, by school age he'll probably want to read aloud to you, too, perhaps alternating chapters in a book you both enjoy.
Also, find time to converse with your child about your respective days, including what he did at school. Even on a night when you are particularly busy, you should still be able to find a time and place to talk.
You should also encourage your child to write and/or draw without any educational purpose in mind other than to express himself. Perhaps he can compose original stories, or write cards, letters, and invitations to friends and relatives. Keep paper, pencils, crayons, markers, and tape in a convenient location so he can sit down and use them without advance planning. Many researchers believe that writing improves a child's reading skills, and vice versa.
Plan some activities—an art project, for example—that you can do with your child. Keep phone call interruptions to a minimum during this period; make it a time you are spending with each other. (Some children say they wish they could call their parents on the phone, because a phone call always gets first priority.)
Put a map on the wall in your child's bedroom and refer to it frequently. You might ask, "Where does Aunt Linda live? . .. Can you find the city where the President lives?" You can also use the map to talk about history, especially around a historical holiday.
Many children enjoy going to the library too. Because they use the school library frequently, children almost instinctively feel at home when they go to the community library. (In schools, libraries are now often called learning centers, because they have video and audio materials as well.)
Also, find some community activities that are pure fun. Despite their recreational nature, they can still be viewed as providing support for what is being taught in school, since they will broaden your child's base of experience and give him something new to write about.
Try reinforcing your child's health education at school in a number of ways—for instance, by making healthful food choices when you shop. No matter what is taught in the classroom and served in the school cafeteria, these influences are much less likely to have an impact upon your youngster if you do not follow the same health-promoting guidelines in your own food selections. Actively involving your child in the process by having him read recipes and measure ingredients can reinforce nutrition education.
Capitalize on your child's physical education program at school, too, by scheduling some weekend or after-school activities that are appropriate for the entire family. Swimming, tennis, bicycle riding, and skiing are some of the sports that children can participate in for their entire lives and that can keep your child fit long after he has left school. Do not overlook walking, either, as a perfect way for the family to enjoy physical activity together.