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Tips for making homework less work for both kids and parents

(ARA) - Some parents are shocked when their first-grader comes home from school with homework. The reality is children are learning more at a younger age and take-home assignments are increasing. Parents play an important role in engaging children and providing a positive homework environment, but knowing what is best for kids can be as confusing as the assignments themselves. 

How much homework should the average student have? The National PTA recommends 10 to 20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter. For example: 20 minutes for second grade, 120 minutes for 12th grade. Some older students may have more depending on their class load. 

Balancing school, homework, extracurricular activities and family life is important for good childhood development. This year as part of its back to school campaign, Lance Sandwich Crackers has partnered with Colleen Burns, The Mom on the Run parenting expert and mother of five boys, to provide practical advice for parents to help them make homework a positive experience for everyone. 

Give them time to unwind 
Unwinding is an important preparation step. Your kids have been sitting and learning all day - minus the walk, car or bus ride home. Give them 15 to 20 minutes to blow off some steam and run around outside before they start their homework. Everyone needs a little break. 

Positive reinforcement 
A positive attitude goes a long way. Shower children with positive reinforcement. For larger homework projects completed over several days, reward each step as well as the overall completion. It's important for kids to understand that progress is being made. 

Keep snacks on hand 
Remember hungry kids are distracted kids, so offer them a wholesome snack while they work. Lance Sandwich Crackers, which are available in 19 varieties, including whole grain, 100-calorie and reduced-fat options have zero grams of trans fat, no preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup, making them a sensible snack any time of day. 

Get help when needed 
Feeling stumped with your child's homework question? You're not the first parent to feel that way. When your child asks a question you don't know how to answer, show them that mom and dad sometimes need help too. These are some great resources to help parents help kids: 

Set the stage for success 
Set aside a space or corner that is the designated space for completing homework. All family members should recognize that when someone is sitting in that area, they should not be disturbed unless they ask for help. Don't underestimate the importance of a comfortable chair and proper lighting when it comes to making homework time a pleasant experience. Set household homework rules. Mom, dad and other siblings should not be watching TV in or near someone completing homework. All house or cell phones should be "parked" - this goes for mom and dad also. 

Create a homework kit for each child 
Prepare a "homework kit" with all the necessary supplies your children will need to complete their assignments. Contents vary by age, but usually include pencils, pens, highlighters, ruler, crayons, markers, glue sticks, erasers and a pencil sharpener. Older children might need a calculator or other electronic items. As part of its back to school campaign, Lance is offering the chance to win a $500 gift card or one of 25 homework caddies, complete with materials your child needs to get their homework done. Be sure to visit to enter. 

And always remember, homework is about practice - it will take some children longer than others to get the hang of it. With the right preparations and materials on hand, you can ensure that homework time in your household is effective and enjoyable for the whole family.

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