July 02, 2015

Q: My 6-year-old son is only passionate about playing with his friends, fishing and occasionally about playing team sports. I realize that this can be common in boys his age, but I am concerned because he is starting first grade, and I don't want him to become one of those lost boys who never likes school or anything that requires sitting still for more than 5 minutes. Has anyone been successful in getting their son more excited about school and other and non-highly physical activities?

A: Take heart that your son is not the only boy in his grade who prefers moving to sitting still! A good teacher knows this and will work with it. On the home front, here are some things you can do to fuel your son’s enthusiasm for learning: 1) Speak positively about school and teachers. Your enthusiasm may be contagious! On the flip side, kids are quick to use adult complaints as an excuse for not trying. They may think, “Mom doesn’t like this teacher, so I don’t have to try!” 2) Help him master basic skills. Kids like to do things that they think they’re good at. In first grade, kids are learning to read and do simple math facts. Cheerfully working on these at home can build their confidence and competence. Keep practice sessions brief and playful so your child doesn’t dread them. 3) Encourage his curiosity. Curiosity is the fuel of learning. Wonder aloud about things you see or hear. Ask interested questions about what he knows. Look things up together. Weekend trips to museums or historical places can encourage curiosity, but so can catching bugs in your backyard or cooking a meal together. 4) Tie learning to his interests. Get books about sports or nature. Make math facts into stories about catching fish or eating cookies. 5) Read aloud to him as long as possible. Even after your son learns to read, he can enjoy listening to you read. You can read more complex stories and allow him to enjoy them without struggling. (I read aloud to my son most nights, until he reached high school.)

Answered by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D.