First Grade Tips for Parents

The early years in elementary school build foundational skills for students. The curriculum is based on the Iowa Core standards and focuses on key concepts in mathematics, literacy, science, social studies, and 21st Century skills. Learn more about the Iowa Core standards for first grade. 

As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is to stay engaged in their learning. Each day, take time to ask your child about their school day. Ask open-ended questions to encourage interaction. Then, you can build on their daily learning with some of the activities suggested on this webpage.

You can also view suggested learning resources for students. These learning resources offer both digital activities and printable practice materials.


How to Help Your Child at Home:

Look for “word problems” in real life. Some first-grade examples might include:

  • If you open a new carton of a dozen eggs, and you use four eggs to cook dinner, close the carton and ask your child how many eggs are left.

  • While putting away toys into bins, count the number of toys in two bins and ask your child how many more are in one bin compared to the other.

  • Play the “I’m thinking of a number” game. For example, “I’m thinking of a number that makes 11 when added to 8. What is my number?”

English Language Arts & Literacy

How to Help Your Child at Home:

  • Encourage your child to read to you books such as Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. Help him or her sound out difficult words.

  • Act out stories together from books, television, or your child’s imagination.

  • Pick a “word of the day” each day that starts with a different letter. Have your child write the word and look for other things that begin with the same letter.

  • Visit the library with your child every week. Have your child sign up for a library card.


How to Help Your Child at Home:

  • Encourage your child to ask questions about events in the natural world.

  • Go outside in your neighborhood or at local parks or trails and take a “listening walk” and ask your child to identify different ways animals use sound to communicate.

  • Encourage your child to come up with examples of how humans have used technology to communicate through light and sound (i.e., traffic signals, cellular phones).

  • Observe animals, including humans, taking care of their young and identify things the parents do to help the young survive

  • Go outside during the day and at night and observe the sky. Help your child discover when or if he/she can see the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Social Studies

How to Help Your Child at Home:

  • Read with your child every day. Seek out social studies-related books, both fiction and non-fiction. Check your local library or the National Council for the Social Studies Notable Trade Book List at for suggestions of books to read.

  • Visit local museums and cultural institutions and compare life today to life in the past.

  • Discuss how rules at home might be different from rules at school or in the community and why.

  • Discuss what goods and services the family chooses to purchase along with the role of financial institutions in planning for saving or investing.

  • Identify a local problem and brainstorm how your child could take action to solve the problem.

  • Discuss family history and how the cultural practices of the family might be the same or different from others in the community and other communities around the world.

  • Attend local community celebrations and talk about the cultural practices that make that community unique.

  • Notice and talk about where the produce you eat comes from.

21st Century Skills

How to Help Your Child at Home:

  • Read with your child from books with 21st Century skills content. Examples: Jobs People Do series by DK publishing; The Marvels of Money for Kids series by Paul Nourigat.

  • Help your child select physical activities to keep moving and have fun.

  • Show your child how to appropriately use technology to find games, activities, and information

Source: Iowa Core Parent Guides from the Iowa Department of Education.
Read the Iowa Core Parent Guide (English) and Iowa Core Parent Guide (Spanish).
Read the complete standards on the Iowa Core website.