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Do you know a child who likes to practice skills learned in school? What?! Your child doesn’t beg to do workbook pages or practice handwriting or the piano each afternoon after a long day at school? Mine either; I mean, some days he likes to, but not many days of the week. Not enough to please his teacher with awesome skills. But, do you know a child who loves treasure hunts? Most, you say? You’re right. And I have found a sneaky and easy way to reinforce school skills without complaint.

First, you’ll need to do a little pre-work yourself. Find out what your child is learning in school and find out what he really is into. You probably know the latter already.

Second, get a small prize for the end of the treasure hunt. You can’t have a hunt without treasure. I use small things so that my son doesn’t get disappointed when the treasure is not huge. A Hot Wheels car, a fun looking note pad and pencil, a reward for an ice cream cone, or a coupon allowing him to stay up past his bedtime all have been hits. If your child likes something in particular, chances are you can find something inexpensive at Target or Amazon that deals with that interest.

Next, write up some notes that will guide your child through the hunt. For example, we usually start at the table where I have put a half-finished puzzle. The clue says, “Finish this puzzle, then go to the place where all the bath towels are.” My son needs to work on fine motor skills, so a puzzle is perfect. But, if I would have just asked him to do a puzzle, he would have politely declined. Putting it in as a treasure hunt makes it fun.

At the towel closet, he will find a piece of paper or little chalkboard where he has to write his name three times. After that, he heads to his bedroom for a few rounds of a matching game I have laid out. Then it’s on to something physical, just so he doesn’t think it’s all work. One clue would be to choose one song off his favorite CD and dance to it, or to do ten jumping jacks, or to line up ten cars into a color pattern. Sometimes he gets to choose one page of a skills workbook to do. Maybe he’ll have to string some beads or cut and paste. Whatever it is,it has to be brief, and it has to be mixed up with some goofiness.

At the end, he will be led to the treasure. And he will ask the next night to do it again. One other aspect of our treasure hunts is that Dad does it with him. It is a time for them to bond, and that is the treasure I get out of it!

So, how do you reinforce some important school skills? Any hints or tips that have worked for you are always appreciated. Let’s help our children and have fun while we’re at it; we’d love to hear from you.

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