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Fun ways to help your child learn

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Help them learn
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Encouraging your child, whatever their age, to learn new things can be satisfying and worthwhile for both of you if you bear in mind these seven golden rules:

* Make learning lots of fun
* Encourage - don't insist!
* Stimulate your children's interest by chatting to them
* Have singalongs
* Share reading time
* Involve them in decisions
* Take them on visits Below is information about how to help babies learn but if your kids are a bit older with got top tips for them too.

Babies

The brain grows faster now than at any other time. Stimulation will aid their development and create a foundation for better learning.

What you can do:
* Share picture books to help encourage reading (and develop eye muscles).
* Change the scenery: go to the park, visit a friend or a baby group.
* Chat and sing constantly: babies love to listen to people's voices and will quickly pick up words.

Buys to help:
* Baby Bright DVDs help early learning with bright animation. They cost £12.99 each from amazon.co.uk.
* Learn to Count wallchart, £19.95 from smartstart-toys.co.uk helps to develop their memory, maths skills and language.

Learning online:

* The website literacytrust.org.uk encourages parents to talk more to help with language skills.
* funwithspot.com has simple games to play and Spot stories for you to read to them.

Preschoolers - 3-5 years old

* Learning should be all about socialising
* Stories can be shared and discussed - it will help them learn the alphabet
* Numbers can be taught through songs and games.

What you can do:
* Share books
* Talk about things you see: street signs, numbers, animals, birds and so on
* Give them dot-to-dot puzzle pictures, so they can start to control a pen/pencil.

Buys to help:

* Boost their imagination with a dolls' house or pirate ship. Try the Early Learning Centre - elc.co.uk.
* Our cooking with kids section has a stash of simple recipes you can make with your children, or you could buy this Cook It Together cookbook by Annabel Karmel.

Learning online:
* Check out our crafts for kids section for loads of makes you can enjoy together.
* Check out primarygames.com. It features counting games and jigsaw puzzles.

Reception and school year 1

What stage they're at:
* They'll be reading aloud at school and will bring books home to read.
* Maths will become more formal.
* They'll start to learn handwriting.

What you can do:
* Listen to them reading, and read together.
* Get them to write shopping lists, letters, anything
* Have kitchen fun: stir bicarb into water to see it fizz; make bread and watch the yeast 'grow'.

Buys to help:
* Make art and writing fun with a big craft kit like Giant Art Studio from Argos, £14.99.
* Orchard Toys' Potty Professor game helps to make learning their times tables fun, £10 at orchardtoys.com.

Learning online:
*Visit bbc.co.uk/education/dynamo for a huge selection of word and number games or try familyreading.org.uk, which has tips on encouraging children to enjoy reading books.

School years 2, 3 and 4

What stage they're at:
* Regular homework involves spelling and maths.
* They'll be doing projects on culture and history.
* Learn about different types of poetry.

What you can do:

* Try mind maps to break projects into small chunks.
* Join the library and stay there a while to read. Choose books for yourself too.
* Visit woods, castles, museums or just the park

Buys to help:
* Tony Buzan's Mind Maps for Kids (Harper Collins).
* Creative construction helps with maths, science and design. Try K'Nex value tub, around £15, or Magnetix 70 piece kit, £14.99.

Learning online:
*Check out funbrain.com for great word and number games - however, it's a US website so check the spelling of some words. Or try gridclub.com - it has over 500 games and learning activities you can register for.

Other useful websites
*Visit booktrusted.co.uk and lovereading4kids.co.uk for suggestions of which books are right for a certain age group. You can download the opening extract from all the books featured on the latter site, and buy the books at 25% discount. Get some helpful ideas and further information from bbc.co.uk/parenting and parentscentre.gov.uk.

Get them to want to learn
* Encourage, but don't insist. If you start arguing about the help you want to give, you'll soon put them off.
* Make learning fun, then they'll pick things up without realising it.
* Involve them in decisions about where to visit, rather than forcing them to go.
* For more information on how a school delivers the National Curriculum, ask for a copy of its prospectus.

More help and advice
- 7 ways to teach your kids big stuff
- Helping your kids deal with disappointment
- Expert advice on praising your child

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