Getting kids to enjoy (or even accept) doing their homework can be a struggle at any age, especially in the fall when students head back to class after a summer of freedom. Beyond the effects of summer learning loss, there are lots of other reasons homework can be hard for kids, too.
Unfortunately, many households in the U.S. can’t provide consistent adult supervision after school. A 2014 study by the After-school Alliance found that 11.3 million children are left unsupervised in the evenings, which is the best time to reinforce the lessons learned in class with a little homework help. Another 2014 report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention shows that the largest spike of violent crimes committed by juveniles is between 3-4 p.m., right when school lets out.
Making homework fun and inspiring kids to focus up can help curb these statistics. We know, because our professional staff spends so much time making out-of-school hours fun, safe, and constructive for kids.
Over the years, our trained youth mentors and program facilitators have developed lots of strategies and ideas to make homework more fun. Get tips on how to make homework fun in high school, middle school, and elementary school so you can help your kid succeed at every age.
Ideas to Make Homework Fun for Elementary, Middle and High Schoolers
From preschool to grade 12 and beyond, many kids find homework assignments boring or simply get restless when asked to sit down and study – but that doesn’t mean they all need the same kind of motivation. Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to homework help by using these age-appropriate tips.
Elementary School Homework Tips
Little kids frequently have trouble focusing on homework. School is out for the day and they just want to play! The solution? Make learning more like playtime.
- Create fun focus spaces. Kids often work on homework in their rooms or wherever there’s a little spare table space – but kids’ rooms and common areas are usually filled with distractions! Before this school year starts, create a special “homework zone” in part of the home that’s more peaceful. (A “homework fort” is always a hit with young kids, as long as it’s well lit!) Stock this area with lots of colorful school supplies so there’s no reason to leave until their homework is all done.
- Beat the clock. Young kids love racing to the finish. Make homework more like a race by setting up timed challenges. For example, count how many words they can spell correctly or math problems they can solve in the span of 5 minutes. The next day, challenge your kid to beat their own record. (A little competition can work great with siblings, too!)
- Try learning apps. Support the subjects your kid studies in school with apps that make learning about it more fun. This tip is especially helpful for subjects that you or your kid struggle with. Some of our favorite educational apps include DragonBox for math, Spelling Stage for spelling, and DuoLingo, which offers learning-based games in Spanish, French and many other languages.
- Team up with tunes. Just like the Alphabet Song teaches kids their ABCs, there are plenty of songs out there to help specific subjects stick. Search YouTube to find songs covering a range of subjects, including the planets in our solar system, the days of the week and months of the year, U.S. states and capitals, how to add or subtract, and pretty much any other educational topic you can imagine! If you can’t find a song on a given subject, try making one up together!
Middle School Homework Tips
In middle school, students gain more independence to work alone or with peers. Encourage their developing maturity with a little structure and loads of support.
- Use power hours. Power hours challenge kids to focus for a certain amount of time. Once the timer goes off, they can take a quick break before diving in again. Offering little rewards after productive power hour sessions is a great incentive at this age, too!
- Plan study dates. If your kid struggles in a certain subject or has trouble focusing in a quiet, empty room, let them invite a friend or two over to study. If another kid is too much of a distraction, set the tone by working alongside your child. While they do homework, you can pay bills, make dinner, reply to emails, or even work on a crossword puzzle or another brain game. Doing “adult” homework creates a sense of companionship without being too overbearing – and it can help kids learn that work is a part of life, not just a part of school.
- Make a routine. Lack of routine can be stressful for kids. Setting a regular schedule for homework can help reduce resistance and improve consistency. Beyond planning time for homework, come up with other little rituals that can help your kid focus, from putting on their current favorite album in the background to using prizes and other incentives to reward good work, like a small treat for every complete assignment!
- Stay positive. Your attitude has a huge impact on how your kid sees the world, especially in the formative middle school years. Keep tabs on your own attitude toward your kid’s homework. If you see helping your kid with homework as a chore, your kid will probably feel that way about it, too. Instead, try to see homework help as a fun, productive time when you both can learn and hang out together.
High School Homework Tips
When students reach high school, having parents hanging around to nag them about homework doesn’t always help. Instead of implementing these homework strategies for high schoolers yourself, show this list to your teenager, and help them come up with a plan they can stick to. Then, take a step back. Check in with your teen every week or so to see if their plan needs tweaking.
- Get organized. High school is the perfect time to start preparing for the life you want to lead after you leave home. To achieve your goals, you have to make plans and stick to them. It’s the same with homework. When you get your assignments for the week, month or semester, take some time before jumping in to sort through the deadlines and requirements. Then, come up with a schedule and a realistic plan of attack. Use a day planner, calendar app, or time management app like Asana to make to-do lists for yourself – trust us, it feels great to cross stuff off your list.
- Reward yourself. It’s easier to work hard when you know there’s a reward at the end of it. Set a study timer, and if you’ve focused on homework until the timer goes off, reward yourself with a favorite snack, a funny video, an epic solo dance party, or a little social media time.
- Upgrade your workspace. Spruce up the place you do homework to fuel your productivity, imagination and problem-solving skills. Keep tools and supplies on hand to help you work through challenging assignments, like colorful pens, highlighters, sticky notes, and cool notepads or notebooks. Decorate with art and other objects that inspire you, and use calendars, whiteboards, chalkboards, corkboards, or even just paper and tape to help visualize and keep track of everything you have to do.
- Turn up the beats. Spotify has tons of playlists dedicated to productivity, from ambient noise to instrumental hip-hop. Find a few go-to playlists that help keep you focused, and put one on whenever you have to zone in. Explore movie soundtracks and other kinds of instrumental music to avoid distracting lyrics.