Power drills

How short bursts of learning pave the way for lasting success.

Learning Stages

Teachers agree that children from families that actively embrace learning opportunities at home do better in school. But many parents wonder how best to support their children's classroom work at home. In addition, busy family lifestyles make it challenging to incorporate learning into daily activities.

Anne E. Cunningham, Associate Professor at the University of California at Berkeley and member of the LeapFrog Educational Advisory Board, cites a 2002 study in American Educator magazine which revealed that short bursts of incremental learning more effectively enable children to absorb new information than mass practice. This is good news for busy families across the country.

While homework is important, other opportunities that effectively engage children in learning will have a more lasting impact. Parents can incorporate incremental learning into their children's often hurried schedules with interactive educational products that make learning fun. In addition, parents can introduce into their children's daily routine distributed practices that promote learning in short bursts of time.

"It is common practice for children to study and learn in relatively large blocks of time. We are now finding, however, that incremental learning can be equally effective," said Cunningham. "Whether children are waiting at the doctor's office or in the car on the way to dance lessons, traditional free time can be used to reinforce skills learned in school."

Ideas for Incremental Learning

To better prepare children for school, Cunningham suggests the following ways to incorporate distributed practices into a student's busy schedule:

  • Turn off the radio and tune in to your children. You can enjoy quality time with your child almost anywhere, and it is important not to miss those simple opportunities to talk.
  • Use the car as a vehicle to engage your child in learning. The car ride can be an easy way to practice geography facts, math equations or spelling.
  • Reinforce learning by example. Ask your child specific questions about what he is learning in school and establish a dialogue to share your own insights into those subjects by using personal examples: "When I was little and space exploration seemed nearly impossible. Now we send people into space on missions to study our solar system."
  • Get interested in what interests your children. If your child is passionate about certain subjects, take an interest in their passion and talk about those subjects at the dinner table or en route to basketball practice.
  • Teach your children that learning is fun. Supplement your children's education with fun learning tools, such as educational products that encourage fundamental learning skills and are tied to their school curriculum.