For both parents and educators alike, getting kids to focus and stay on task can be quite a challenge. Whether it’s listening to instructions from mom and dad, paying attention in class, or completing an assignment, certain conditions like ADHD, hyperactivity, or just plain old distractions can cause attention problems and make it difficult for children to concentrate and get things done. For children with attention problems, little things like doing homework after school, learning new material from a teacher, or listening to mom and dad can be more difficult than usual.
If you’ve noticed your child has been having a difficult time focusing and is easily distracted, it may be time to change up your routine and incorporate some new learning strategies. To help, we’ve created this list of tips for strengthening concentration and improving focus in children.
Use Exercise to Burn off Energy and Create Calmness
Kids as well as adults have a need for exercise to help them perform at their best. Not only does exercise boost serotonin levels in the brain, which can improve overall peace of mind and happiness, but it can help your child feel more calm afterwards as well. Incorporating as many 30-minute spans of aerobic activity as possible into your child’s weekly routine will not only keep them healthy, but will help with improving focus. Sometimes children can be fidgety due to excess energy, and allowing them time for fun outdoor activities like sports, tag, or playing at the park can help cut down on the need to move when it comes time to focus on learning. Certain mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation can also help children work on staying calm and feeling in control.
Be Mindful of Their Diet
Our lives are fueled by the food we eat. Many aspects, such as productivity, fatigue, mood, and focus can be improved by switching to a healthier diet. To cut down on jitters and hyperactivity in your child, try to limit the amounts of processed foods and sugars they eat each day. Instead, offer fresh fruits and vegetables or low sugar snacks as much as possible. .
Give them Something to Work For
When trying to get your child to focus on homework, you may find that the child who never wants to open up, now has a million things to say to you. As much as we love our children and want to hear about their day, it can be helpful to delay chatting and other behaviors that take the child off task. Instead, use positive reinforcement and reward your child once they have completed their task. Set a goal that gives them something to work for. For example, if they can complete their task in under an hour, they get to play a game they’ve been wanting to play, or a few minutes of time doing something else they are interested in.
Incorporate Sensory Strategies and Toys
For some children, fidgeting is a normal part of life and something that they find they have no real control over. Their minds and bodies are in a constant state of movement and it can be difficult for them to slow down enough to sit still and focus. If you find that your child has been having a difficult focusing, many fidget toys are available today that can keep their hands busy and occupied and allow them to be calm enough to focus on directions. Sensory breaks are also a great tool to help your child unwind between periods of focus and allow them to get their bodies in touch with their minds. Here are some of our favorite sensory activities!
Create a Routine
It can help to have an established routine in place so that your child knows ahead of time when they will be required to sit and focus on schoolwork, chores, or other tasks that will require their concentration. Make a habit to sit down with your child as soon as they get home from school and have them begin their homework. Set the expectation of what you want from them at both home or school, and then give them room to follow through. If you see your child struggling while trying to complete a task, step in and help them to refocus their attention.
Break It Down into Smaller Steps
Sometimes a child can have a hard time focusing and completing a task simply because of information overload. To help keep your child focused, start by working things through individually. Written lists can helpful when accomplishing multiple tasks. When giving verbal directions, make eye contact, and state your request clearly. Have your child repeat what you’ve just said to ensure they heard it correctly. Continue providing support when needed until your child finishes that task, then move onto the next.
Take Breaks When Needed
Sometimes it can help to break an assignment or task down into smaller, more manageable amounts of time. It may be easier for your child to focus for fifteen minutes at a time with breaks in between rather than trying to sit down and focus on completing an entire assignment at once. Set a timer (we love the Time Timer as it helps demonstrate the concept of time) and have them concentrate on their work for 15-20 minute periods depending on their age. In between let them get up, roam around, or take a stretch break.
A necessary step in improving focus is to decrease the distractions that may take your child’s attention away from what they are supposed to be doing. Turn off televisions and other devices when it’s time to work. Create a quiet, comfortable area that is designated for homework and stocked with supplies. If you notice your child having a hard time paying attention to you due to competing distractions, taking steps to eliminate them can allow them to focus their attention more fully on you and the task at hand.
Engage Their Interest
Different children have different learning styles and ways that they are best able to receive information. Your child may have a hard time processing verbal instructions, but may excel when given visual aids. Discovering your child’s learning style and being aware of their temperament can help you come up with the best way to help them learn and keep them motivated.
By helping your child take care of their body as well as their mind, you can help them develop skills to increase their focus and strengthen their concentration. Many attention problems in kids can be remedied by teaching healthy habits, working together to learn new focusing strategies, and effective follow through from parents and teachers.
Check out this list of more resources and activities to help your kids strengthen their focus and improve their attention span!
5 Simple Concentration Building Techniques for Kids with ADHD | Empowering Parents
Awesome Focus Games for Kids! | Teacher Support Force
Brain Training Activities for Auditory Attention | Our Journey Westward
Helping Students Develop the Skills to Focus | Edutopia
Fabulously Fantastic Fine Motor Activities | How Wee Learn
Understanding Your Child’s Trouble With Focus | Understood
DIY Fidget Toys | Meraki Lane
Concentration Exercises for Kids | Livestrong
101 Sensory Activities for Kids | Meraki Lane
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