Do your children excel in school? Have they mastered the skills of their grades? Should they skip a level? If a child is out-performing other children, should they go forward in their schooling faster? These questions may be hard for a parent to answer.
However, according to child development experts, the answer is usually no. Too often parents are so flattered by their child’s advanced skill level that they want to move them through school faster. This idea plays more toward the parent’s sense of “raising their child right” than interest in the child’s well-being in the long term. Unfortunately, quicker is not always better. A child may advance intellectually, but will remain on the same social level as his/her same-aged peers. Allowing them to stay in their grade will increase the opportunity to develop friendships and gain communication skills that will benefit them throughout their life. Children understand, communicate, and interact differently at each stage of development. Only with time can children polish those skills. Children also develop different interests as they age. There is a difference between children in 1st grade and second, although it might not be evident at first glance. Social interests also change as children improve physical skill. Fourth graders want to play with children who are at their same level of competency in games and activities. If a child moves through school quickly, they might struggle to develop friendships. Social interactions play a large part in a child’s self-esteem and development. For these reasons it is in a child’s best interest to stay at their grade level and instead be challenged with content appropriate for their age.
Helping a child to advance academically is a good thing, if it is done appropriately. If you have a first grader who consistently earns good marks in subtraction you may be tempted to move on to multiplication. A better choice is to expand their knowledge within the realm of subtraction. Numbers do not mean anything until they are applied to real life, situations, and problems. Advance the thinking within subtraction. This helps children not only increase their mathematical skills, but reach a deeper level of understanding. Multiple-step problems, word problems, and puzzles challenge different parts of the brain and increase comprehension. These exercises provokes deeper thought, and requires children to think in steps, expanding their understanding of what subtraction is. Because they will develop life skills they will be more useful as contributing adults to society. They can do more than just spit out numbers and facts, they can apply it. This is a powerful skill.
There are many puzzles that will challenge the advanced child. One example is Sudoku. There are many levels in the game and all ages can play. Other puzzles include: riddles, anagrams, doublets, picture puzzles, chess problems, math puzzles, and logic puzzles. Is one puzzle better than another? No. Puzzles should be geared toward the interest of the child. Tastes, skills and interests form at a remarkably early age. Use your child’s interests to enlarge and expand their thinking. By cultivating interests and introducing puzzles your child will be successful academically and socially.