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11 Effective Ways to Improve Study Habits for Your Kids

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Kids have a lot on their plates. The school day is already long, and after you add in extracurriculars, there’s little time left for anything else. 

But the homework has to get done. And they have to find time to prepare for the big test next week. Your child needs to maximize and improve their study time.

Many kids struggle with studying. And the pandemic didn’t make things any easier. In the Fall of 2020, more than half of college students reported struggling to complete their coursework. And even more found it difficult to stay focused.

The stress of the last year has been felt by younger students too. It’s important for middle and high school students to refocus on their studies. That’s why we’re here to help you steer your child towards more productive study habits and find study strategies that work for them.

With these tips, your child will be more able to effectively use their study time to thrive in school this year. Even better, working on these habits now will set them up for success for years to come — both in school and in the workplace!

What makes studying difficult for some children?

Some children find it more difficult than others to crack a book open when they get home. This can be for a variety of reasons. 

The school day is already long, and many children are not getting enough sleep. Add in extra after-school activities, and it’s easy to understand why shutting off their brain is often their number one priority.

Frustrated child studying at his desk.

Even children who find the time to sit down and study may struggle with using this time well. A few reasons your child may find studying difficult include:

  • Lack of Interest — As a kid, you probably didn’t like every subject. Some felt plain boring. And it’s the same way for your child. When something doesn’t interest you or feel fun, it can be easy to put it on the back-burner.
  • Distraction — There’s a lot going on at home in the evenings. Dinner being made, younger siblings running around, friends calling on the phone. Often, there’s so much else your child would rather do than study.
  • Worry — Whether students are in elementary, middle or high school, school can be a high-stress time. Tricky social situations may be weighing on them, or they may be worried about assignments. Plus, the pandemic added even more worry to the normal stress of school and childhood. There’s a lot whirring around in their minds every day, making it hard to settle down and focus.

School is full of things students have to do. Much like how work can be for adults. The trick is to figure out how to keep pushing forward. That’s where you, the parent, can help. 

If your child is struggling with studying, they’re not alone. Think about why they may be having a difficult time. Then sit down and talk with your child, one on one. Give them a judgment-free space to share what’s going on in their lives. Figure out their most pressing issues, then work together to find an answer.

How to help kids study

Watching your child struggle with school work is hard. Here are our suggestions to help your child thrive during their study sessions.

1. Make use of at-home learning technology

Technology is all around, and it’s not going anywhere. With internet access, you can learn just about anything at any time. And learning how to use online resources is key to your child’s future success in school and life. 

Help your child learn to navigate educational apps and technology. Set appropriate limits and monitor as needed to keep the focus on homework. If you can find fun and entertaining learning resources, you’ve hit the jackpot!

If your child dreads math homework, for example, try a fun game-based option like Prodigy Math Game. With Prodigy, your child can practice curriculum-aligned math skills while they play an engaging fantasy video game! Prodigy helps take away the stress of math practice, making it feel more like a needed brain break than homework. Learning while having fun is what great EdTech is all about.

Example of a math question kids will encounter when they play Prodigy

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2. Eliminate distraction

As much as we want to believe it’s possible, no one can multitask perfectly. Focus and concentration are needed to complete any project well. And that often means eliminating distractions. This is important for every student, but especially if your child is one of many students diagnosed with ADHD.

And the most common distraction for students? Their mobile devices. Designate a place outside of their study area to stash their phone or tablet during study time. If they need their phone’s calculator, try setting it to airplane mode to disable talk and text.

A mobile device is not the only distraction, of course. A nearby TV or noisy siblings may also make it difficult to focus. If possible, find a study space outside of the home’s common areas. If your child works well with white noise or music, let them turn it on. It may help drown out other distracting noises, helping them focus on their studies.

3. Set regular but short breaks

Sitting and studying for an hour straight without taking brain breaks will likely produce poor results. Instead, make sure your child takes breaks during study time to refresh their brain.

Many professionals use the Pomodoro Technique to increase productivity — working for 25 minutes, then taking a five-minute break. This is a great place to start when planning study breaks as well. But it’s certainly not the only option.

Try out a few options, see what works best for your child, and stick with it. But don’t force it — one trick may not work forever. If your method stops working, be flexible and adjust as needed.

Does your child need some ideas for those brain breaks? During break time, they can:

  • Stretch
  • Take a walk
  • Grab a snack
  • Check in with friends
  • Work on a personal project or hobby

The important thing is to set a time to return to work, then get back to it without delay. 

4. Designate fixed studying and school work areas

During the pandemic, everyone spruced up their home offices. And for good reason! It’s easier to focus and stay productive when you’re in a space you enjoy. And it’s the same for your child.

The kitchen table can be a great space for younger children to work. But as your child moves into middle and high school, they may need a desk they can customize and settle into. One that is away from the distractions of the main living areas. 

If it’s time to upgrade their desk, let them have fun decorating their new space! Choose a desk large enough for textbooks, notepads and their computer. Then add in some color and personality with a customizable cork board and accessories. When their study space fits their style, they’ll more likely enjoy using it.

5. Try alternatives to reading

Reading back through notes and textbooks can become tedious. There’s only so much time your child can focus during, before eyes start to glaze over. If your child struggles during studying, try other methods, like these:

  • Work together to design flashcards for vocabulary words
  • Search for an online video explaining the subject in a new way
  • Ask them to draw a picture or diagram to illustrate science concepts
  • Find an interesting audiobook or podcast about the topic they’re studying

Kids learn in different ways. Find what works best for your child and use it. Just be sure to keep the focus on studying and avoid the online rabbit holes of distraction.

6. Set a fixed time to study

Most kids don’t just head straight home after school with a free evening. Usually, there's sports or band practice, plus dinner and family time to fit in. Scheduling study time may be the only way to ensure it gets completed. 

Sit down with your child and schedule this time together. Set a start and end time, and include study breaks. Then help them stick to their new schedule. Things may come up, so be flexible when needed, but keep study hours a priority. 

It may take a couple of weeks to find a groove. So try setting reminders on your phone to make sure time doesn’t get away from everyone. After a while, study time will become a regular and expected part of the day.

Bonus — learning to work around life’s events, both planned and unplanned, is a skill that will follow them throughout school and their career. Time management for the win!

7. Give Regular praise

You sat down together, planned a schedule, and they’ve stuck to it. Amazing! Let them know that you notice all of their hard work. Positive parenting and celebrating their wins (both big and small) may be just the encouragement they need to keep it up. 

Make sure to celebrate effort over outcome, to show your child that trying is the most important thing. Some great wins to celebrate include:

  • Solving a tricky problem
  • Sticking to their schedule
  • Having a lightbulb moment
  • Reaching a reading or math goal
  • Finishing a project or assignment

Share how proud you are, and tell them they should be proud of themselves too. They are accomplishing a lot and working hard to do it. Add in a surprise treat or outing every once in a while, and they’ll be excited to keep moving forward!

8. Reassess on a regular basis

You’ve followed steps one through seven, but it just isn’t clicking. Don’t worry! Strong study habits don’t develop overnight. It may be time for another sit-down and planning discussion with your child.

Mother and daughter talking.

Where is there a problem? 

Are they still not finding the time to study? Try a different schedule. Are test scores not improving? Ask about their understanding of the material, or if anything is affecting their study time. Problem-solve together and try again.

Even when things are working well, it’s a good idea to check in. Every week, take some time to discuss how effective their study schedule and strategies are. What’s working? What is a struggle? Then make changes as needed. Even if something works for weeks, a change may help breathe new life into an old routine.

Be flexible and work together to find the best study plan for your child. 

9. Plan in advance

Planning ahead is a strategy for success in everyday life. There are only 24 hours in a day. Maximize that time and don’t wait until the last minute to cram.

If a test is coming up on Friday, encourage your child to start reviewing on Monday. Break down the material into manageable chunks and tackle it one day at a time. 

Add these details into the study schedule for the week. If they can think beyond tomorrow, they’ll save themselves a lot of stress — both in the immediate future and in their adult lives.

10. Prioritize frequent exercise and getting enough sleep

These are easy to overlook, but so important for student success. Daily exercise will keep the brain active. During study breaks, or before and after study sessions, encourage your child to get outside. Let them run around and get out some of that pent-up energy!

If that transition from school to home to studying is difficult, try exercise to move the mind forward. You don’t have to spend a lot of time here. A 10-minute bike ride or a 5-minute yoga session may be just the trick to moving on to the next phase of the day. If they’re coming from a sports practice and are already wiped out, suggest a quick meditation or calming activity to help with the transition from home to focused study time.

Even better, take studying out in the fresh air when possible. Exposure to sunlight will help your child stay energized during the day, and prepare their bodies for sleep at night. 

There’s always a lot going on, but try to keep an early and consistent bedtime for your child. Ensure they get enough sleep to help all their hard work stick. 

11. Stay Involved & Follow Through

A lot of this list involves you, the parent, helping your child learn the dos and don’ts of studying. These skills take practice. You may even struggle with procrastination and time management yourself. 

Developing good study habits can be tough, and your child needs your help to succeed. One more way to help — use this time to study as well. Take time to dive into topics you’ve always wanted to learn. Study alongside your child. Read a new book, learn a foreign language or get ahead of tomorrow’s work. 

Mother and her two daughters working at the kitchen table together.

Studying with your child can model good habits and improve their view on learning. Learning really is a lifelong pursuit. You just have to take the time for it!

How good study habits impact real-world development

School success is the focus now, but establishing strong study habits will help your child throughout their life. 

Time management, goal setting and balancing self-care are important skills in the real world. Helping your child thrive in school prepares them for all of life’s challenges (plus, you may even improve some of your own life skills 😃).

Good study habits are essential for developing children into lifelong learners. Looking for more ways to help your child succeed in school and beyond? At Prodigy, our mission is to help every student in the world love learning! 

Explore our website and blog for more helpful tips and suggestions on creating a life-long love of learning for your child.

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