There’s a time and place for expert opinion, but sometimes the best practical wisdom springs straight from real life. GreatSchools is proud to introduce “What Worked,” a new series featuring tips and tales tapped directly from the source: fellow moms and dads. From facing down mean girls (and boys) to helping with homework horrors, GreatSchools members recount their child-rearing adventures in the hopes that what worked for them just might work for you. At the very least, we hope these short takes will inspire you to try new, creative tactics tailored to your child’s needs.

For our first edition, we asked parents to share ideas for boosting kids’ learning. One family celebrates a new letter each week, while another uses “time-outs” to teach times tables. Read on for more tricks for your early learner.

Live by the letter

To help me come up with fun learning activities for my kids and also help my preschooler learn her alphabet, our family celebrates a letter (or two) each week:

  • Meals and snacks begin with the designated letter: for example, A for applesauce, C for cucumber, and E for eggs.
  • Crafts begin with the letter, whether it’s bubble painting or cutting from catalogs to make a collage.
  • We check out library books with titles or characters’ names that start with the letter.
  • We enjoy music by artists whose names start with the letter, or songs with titles that match the letter.
  • We take side trips to local spots beginning with the letter.
  • I plan activities for my older sons too, such as coming up with a new ending to a favorite story for E week or solving the math equations inside hidden Easter eggs to earn a piece of Extra gum.
  • My toddler practices writing and identifying the letter, and my older sons get a kick out of coming up with ideas each week.

Yes, the less common letters do pose a challenge — what a great way to give [my] brain a workout too! — by crab12

Make spelling musical

An easy way [to teach my children to spell their names] was having them sing their name to the tune of the “ABC” song. Once they were able to spell their names with the song, we would sit down and write it out. It worked for my kids and others who used my advice. — by shaydon903

Practice disciplined learning

Did a teacher in school ever make you write “I will not talk in class” 200 times? When my daughter had to learn her multiplication tables, we worked and worked on them. I knew I had to find a way for her to really learn and retain them. One day she did something that needed disciplining, and I had her sit down and write her multiplication tables several times each. I used this as a discipline action from then on until she had fully retained them. To this day she credits that discipline to her learning and retaining them — and this summer she is using the same tactic on her 8-year-old son. — by KalebsDa