Children begin learning good habits, work ethic, and basic values at a very young age. From cleaning up their toys to following a daily schedule, kids are preparing for success in education as young as 2 years old. We teach our kids to share, be kind, and eat their veggies, of course, but are there things we can be teaching them as toddlers to help prepare them for school in a few years? Absolutely! 

Even after the toddler stage and into your child’s elementary, middle, and high school years, there are many ways to come alongside them in their learning and provide the support they need. Here are some tips to help your child succeed in school at any age. 

Value Routine

A student studying a math assignment with their calculator at their side.

Image via Flickr by scui3asteveo

Each school day has a built-in structure. If your child can get used to structure and routines at home, they will have a much easier time adjusting to and following the daily routine of school. If they are used to every day being different and unpredictable at home, they may struggle to adjust once school begins. Now, things come up, and we have crazy days or even seasons of life, but striving for a predictable routine as the norm is a great way to prepare your children for school.

For example, try to put the kids to bed around the same time every night and get them up around the same time every morning. Strive to have as many meals as you can around the same time each day and at a table. Constant on-the-go meals, late nights, and lazy mornings can make it tough for kids to function once a school schedule demands early mornings and a structured lunchtime around a cafeteria table. 

Value Their Sleep

Strict bedtimes and restful nights are part of a healthy routine. According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschool-aged children from 3 to 5 years of age need about 10 to 13 hours of sleep a night. Elementary-aged children from 6 to 13 years old need about 9 to 11 hours per night. Teenagers and adults need about 8 hours. Keep these numbers in mind when deciding on bedtimes. 

Children who don’t get enough sleep at night struggle with attention, motivation, and even self-control. You don’t want your child struggling to stay awake during class or being too tired to focus on their test or homework. Sleep-deprived children tend to be cranky and may find it difficult to control themselves when it comes to playing well with others or handling disappointment. We’ve all seen the tired toddler throw a fit when they are told they can’t have cookies for dinner. 

Encouraging healthy sleep habits by developing a sleep schedule and keeping your home conducive to sleep at night (no late-night weekday parties) is a great way to help your child succeed in school. Again, we know things happen and fun opportunities like sleepovers, holiday fireworks, and other plans come up, but we are talking about the general routine in your household. 

Value Work Ethic

Work ethic? In my 5-year-old? Yes, it might sound crazy, but it can be done and will help your kid succeed. Encouraging a strong work ethic in your child will look different depending on the age and personality of the child, but basically, children who learn to take responsibility for their things and their work handle the classroom better. This can start early with learning to pick up their toys before moving on to a new activity or putting their dirty dishes in the sink after dinner. 

Parents can model a strong work ethic by getting little ones involved in cooking, baking, cleaning, and organizing. Show them how to take pride in their work. Set a goal, accomplish it, and be proud of the accomplishment. Be careful to set attainable goals early on in this process and only up the challenge as the child gets older and more capable. 

Once your kids are old enough to understand charts, a chores list is a great way to establish a work ethic in the home. These skills will help them learn to care for their things and recognize responsibilities, so when they’re in school, they will see their homework as something they need to do with effort and studying as part of their commitment as a student.

Value Process Over Product

Valuing one specific outcome over everything else can be very detrimental to a child’s development and can be quite frustrating for them. If A grades are all that all we ever encourage, praise, or respond positively to, children can get stuck in their struggle to perform or even be inspired to cheat. Some children will put in their absolute best efforts and still get a mix of different grades, which, if high grades are the only goal, can lead to burnout and apathy toward school altogether. However, if we are focused on the process over the product, they learn to value learning. 

We don’t want our kids to fail or get bad grades, of course, but our main focus should be their education as a whole and not one specific grade. Rather than setting goals for straight As, consider setting goals to encourage them to take ownership of their learning process. Study goals like reading a book on a new subject once every month, or self-advocacy goals like asking their teacher for help once a week, can help your child learn to enjoy learning rather than get straight-A tunnel vision. 

Value Their Teacher

Your child’s teacher is their main access road to learning in school, so express their value. Even if you disagree with the decisions the teacher is making, try to keep those disagreements away from your child’s ears. If your child knows you don’t trust or respect their teacher, they will have a hard time learning from them. Also, be sure to keep communication between you and your child’s teacher regular, open, honest, and gracious. Handle problems with the teacher before going to the principle. Ask the teacher how you can come alongside them and help your child succeed. 

Educational success starts young! Give your child the support they need from the beginning at Crème de la Crème Early Learning Center. We implement many of the learning support techniques recommended by experts, focus on developmental milestones, and always provide a safe and happy environment.