How do I help my child learn?


From language and numeracy to self-control and understanding, Linda Geddes offers these tips from the experts.

Language and communication

  • Children are most receptive to learning about what is currently in their attention frame, so pay attention to what your child seems interested in. Provide them with a running commentary about what they are doing or looking at.
  • Repeat the sounds and words your child uses, and try to engage them in conversation at every possible opportunity.
  • Read together – the more books children are exposed to, the greater their vocabulary and their understanding of the world will be. Also, try reading old stories new ways: ask your child what’s going to happen next or to describe what they see in the pictures.
  • Sing songs with actions – as well as teaching vocabulary, these challenge a child’s memory.


  • Talk about shapes, numbers and fractions as you go about your daily business, such as when you’re in the corner shop or as you walk through the park.
  • Cook together: encourage your child to help you measure ingredients and count the number of spoonfuls. Talk and ask questions about concepts such as more and less, and bigger and smaller.
  • Play board games like Snakes and Ladders. Children often struggle with the concept of the number line – the idea that five is in between one and ten – and seeing the numbers mapped out can help.

Understanding the world

  • Use everyday situations, such as bath time, to teach concepts like wet and dry, sinking and floating, or gravity.
  • As your child approaches the age of three, ask them questions about the books you’re reading together or situations you find yourselves in, such as “Why do you think that girl looks sad?”
  • Take children on day trips to new places to help them learn about the wider world. If a child has been on a boat, for instance, they’ll understand more of the context when they read a book about boats.


  • Use words to help your child understand his feelings and ultimately express them. “You feel angry because your sister took away the car you were playing with.”
  • Give older toddlers some choices, but limit their options. For example, “Would you like to wear the red t-shirt or the green t-shirt today?”
  • Stay calm when your child is upset. This helps them to feel safe.
  • Set a few basic ground rules, and stick to them.
  • Play games like musical statues or Simon Says.


  • Encourage children to solve problems for themselves by ‘scaffolding’. If they’re struggling with a jigsaw puzzle, help them to break the task down by looking for all the pieces of one type (e.g. tree pieces or bird pieces) first. If they’re failing to open a jar or bottle, ask what strategies they’ve tried so far and make some additional suggestions. Encourage your child to keep trying.
  • Use descriptive praise to let your child know when they’ve done a good job; for example, “You managed to solve that puzzle for yourself.” Also praise good behaviour, such as playing quietly or sharing.
  • Give your child the opportunity to do things for themselves, such as pouring their own milk or dressing themselves – at least some of the time.

Material drawn from reporting for the article ‘Do you need to go to parent school?’ at Mosaic Science by Linda Geddes