Preschool

Language and mathematical skills are key for young kids. Seal suggests helping your child's vocabulary naturally by asking questions and building on her comments. "Ask questions, listen to your child's stories, then encourage her to elaborate: 'Tell me more. What happened after the puppet said "Surprise"?'"

Helping define words and reading stories actively - as in asking questions about the book your child is reading and encouraging feedback - can also improve your child's language learning.

Develop math skills by encouraging counting. "It takes a long time for children to really get numbers in sequence and to really understand one-to-one correspondence [the idea that one number is associated with one object], and this is really essential," says Birgitta Corneille, president of Math Link, a developer of mathematics educational materials.

Have fun getting kids to count. Cor-eille suggests having kids count like objects - apples, blocks, etc. - to understand one-to-one correspondence.


Elementary Age

The family meal may be passé, but it's not lost its importance. Tuning out the TV and tuning into family discussions during mealtimes will help keep the focus on language alive.

"Share your enjoyment of learning by describing something you learned at work or in the newspaper," says Seal. And, she suggests making sure your home has plenty of different reading materials, such as newspapers, books, and magazines. "Visit the library every week. Get your child a subscription to a magazine covering his interests in animals, sports, or Scouts."

Another important concept for this age group: understanding money. Seal suggests encouraging your child to estimate, and not guess wildly, the cost of a cart of groceries, or talking to her about numbers she sees in the newspaper or on a TV program.

"Ask your fifth grader to calculate whether it's more economical to buy a big container of juice or a six-pack of juice boxes. Play number games, paying attention to your child's thinking," says Seal.