If your child is not yet in Elementary, let me fill you in on a little secret.... It is A LOT of work!!!!! From the moment they step into Kindergarten, they are expected to learn a lot and quickly! I don't know where my sons school standards line with yours but by the end of the year he is expected to write the alphabet, upper and lower case, his numbers to 100, and know the beginning foundations of reading. This is a lot if you haven't really practiced much.... so my point is, start as early as possible but try to make it FUN!
My six year old son fights every minute of "BORING SCHOOL WORK". Like his mommy, he is a visual learner which can be tough when you get to school. Every child has to learn how to sit, be quiet, and write BUT they also have to know that learning can be fun as well. We want to start as early as possible making connections in the brain with learning and fun!!
My son's teacher had a great idea to get him a small chalk or dry erase board. I went with the dry erase, 4 bucks at Target! I also bought a pack of fun small markers. Color is alway better! =) Here is my son being silly and showing off his new board! =) The board REALLY helps to make writing fun and new... not just on a regular piece of paper. Remember, don't let them have this all the time. Let it be only for special occasions when you play writing games!
My son sparked the idea in my head of this fun writing game we now play. He just had his birthday this past week and he got himself a pack of Squinkies. If you aren't into the world of Squinkies yet, I will tell you what they are. They are just cute mini squishy, rubbery, figures. Of course they have them in your child's FAVORITE characters Princess, Cars, Toy Story, Superheros....etc.
My son randomly told me,"Mom, I have 36 Squinkies!" the SAME DAY his teacher gave me the idea of the dry erase board so I put the two ideas together! We put all of his Squinkies into a basket and randomly pull out a handful. Have your child simply count them and write the number down! After this step it is up to you to make it up as it goes. You could have them add more to their pile and then see how many are there, or subtract some from the pile and then count. The important thing is EVERY TIME you say a number, they write it down for practice. You can do this with all sorts of small items other than Squinkies...for example, legos, marbles, or even food (pretzels, goldfish, and cereal). With the food items, when you subtract from a pile, let the child eat them! =)
At one point I pulled out 10 Squinkies from the basket...then I asked him, "What if we doubled this number or added 10 squinkies to the pile?" "What about 10 more...." He quickly got the pattern I was going for! You can use fraction words like half of and quarter. The more they hear these words, they will start understanding them!
Here is an awesome hand out Brenden's teacher gave me for using the sides of a small dry erase or chalk board to write out 1 - 9. This is a great resource for younger children! My 3 year old daughter successfully wrote out every number by herself, with me talking her through it! The earlier the better! You see in the illustration that the square the number is in, is the edge of the board! It's hard to make a mistake because you cant draw out of the box! =)
I hope this helps inspire you to think of fun games for your child to play at whatever stage they are at!