Just because you don’t have a teaching degree or haven’t stepped foot in a classroom in more years than you’d like to admit, doesn’t mean that you can’t help your child develop important academic and life skills.

You might be asking: Who has the time between work, parenting, helping with homework, playdates, household chores, and everything else life throws at us? Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways right under our very noses to work on skills such as spelling, vocabulary, problem-solving and much more, all while getting your laundry done or baking those cupcakes for the bake sale.

The first step is to decide which skill sets your child needs to develop and then get creative about how to practice these skills in new and interesting ways. For example, if you want to develop early reading or writing skills, having your child write out your grocery list is a great way to practice high frequency words (eggs, milk, jam, ham, etc.) as well as words with multiple syllables or tricky vowel or consonant blends (meat, chicken, crackers, bread, etc.). You can dictate the words you want to go on your grocery list (while you complete some other household chore). For added fun, your child can use grocery flyers to seek out and find the spelling of certain grocery items.

Looking for a sneaky way to get some help with folding laundry? Ask your child to help you fold a basket of clean laundry, and while doing so, try creating fractions with clothing categories. How many shirts have short-sleeves out of all the shirts in the basket? Out of all the pairs of socks, how many have designs on them versus the solid-coloured ones? Work on basic problem-solving by timing how fast it takes your child to fold one full basket of laundry, and with that answer, ask how long it would take to fold 3 baskets of laundry (addition or multiplication). Build on that by asking your child to convert their answer to seconds or another unit of time measurement.

At the gas station with your 5th or 6th grader in the back seat, point out the cost of filling up your tank and mention that the tank will cover X amount of kilometers. Ask your child (with pencil and notepad in hand) to figure out what it would cost in gas money to get to a favourite local destination with an estimate of the distance in kilometers (video game store, mall, park, etc.), and if they get the answer correct or use a logical method to solve, you could make the trip there as a reward!

If you are planning some sort of large purchase for your home, get your child involved in a savings game plan. For example, if you plan on buying an $800 swing set for the backyard and you’ve explained to your child that you’ve been saving $50 per week since the beginning of January, ask him/her to calculate how many weeks you’ll have to save to get the swing set. This quick exercise is great for brushing up on problem-solving in a real-world context but also teaches students about saving and the value of items they cherish. For much younger students, the same exercise can be done with smaller monetary amounts.

If your child is reluctant to practice French outside of the classroom, try a new twist on a treasure hunt. When it’s time to tidy up the house, give your child a box or basket big enough to fit several items at once. If you or another family member can play too, race to fill up your box or basket with out of place items scattered around the home. The twist? Be the first to find an item that begins with each letter of the alphabet (b=brosse à dents, s=soulier, j=jouet). Not only will your floors, stairs and countertops be rid of clutter, but you’ll have reviewed at least 26 French words!

With the summer months fast-approaching, now is the time to put these new tricks into practice. Avoid summer learning loss and while walking the dog with your child, come up with a fraction about how many homes on your street have freshly cut grass versus those who don’t, or how many homes have cars in the driveway versus those who don’t. Can your child estimate the distance from where you’re standing to the house across the street? If your child estimates in meters, can he/she convert that to centimeters?

Once you get into the habit of turning mundane home chores, tasks or errands into cleverly disguised learning opportunities, you will never look at your pile of dirty laundry the same way again…

About the Author:

Lisa Cipriani is the Director of Centre Pédagogique La Renaissance, a tutoring center in Laval that provides academic services for primary, secondary and adult learners. As an experienced teacher, Lisa has been working in education for almost 15 years. Visit www.cprenaissance.com