Being able to concentrate and focus for sustained periods is a skill that children will need to develop to make the most of their education. Children spend much of their school day listening to their teacher or independently completing their classwork, so it is vital they can stay engaged and on task.
While most children will naturally develop a greater attention span as they grow older and get used to the school environment and expectations, some continue to struggle to focus on an activity for more than an hour at a time. In this digital age of smartphones, the internet, and social media, there are plenty of distractions to tempt the wandering mind where homework is concerned.
Children are learning to analyze and think as they explore the world that surrounds them. The things that may look ordinary to an adult’s eye are new things that are wonderful for children. For this reason, children tend to be distracted by things that are happening around them. This is no cause for alarm as there are some things that you can do to help your child have a better level of concentration.
Here are a few ways you can help your child to improve their ability to concentrate at school and home:
• Sleep – most children concentrate better after a good nine hours sleep, so ensuring they take the time for this can make a world of difference. Establish a designated bed time at an early age so they, get into a regular routine, and try to stick to it. If bed time is a constant struggle, try explaining why sleep is so essential to them.
• Diet – we all know a good diet is important, particularly amongst growing children, but diet also has a profound effect on energy levels and concentration skills as well as health and weight. Ensuring your child has a balanced diet, consisting of food from the four main food groups, will help aid brain function and help them concentrate for longer.
• The golden rule to remember when it comes to their diet is to never skip breakfast. Ensuring your child heads off to school having had a filling breakfast containing foods that release energy slowly (cereals, bread, and wholegrains) will help them stay alert throughout the school day.
• Exercise – educational experts have long made the link between physical activity and improved concentration levels. Exercise helps the brain stay oxygenated which in turn keeps the brain sharp.
• Change of scene – focusing on an activity for an extended period of time can make anyone feel fatigued and bored. Changing the scene, either through a short rest break or by turning their attention to something else for a short while, will revitalise your child or re-engage their brain.
• Routine – outlining a clear routine for your child will help them to realise what activity is coming up and what time to expect breaks. Knowing they have a deadline to complete a given task will drive their concentration and keep them focused. Using visual timetables with pictures of each activity in order may also prove helpful for younger children.
• Encouragement and incentives – praise, regular encouragement, and rewards will definitely help them to see a task through to the end more effectively.
• As with any skill, a child’s concentration will improve with practice, so even if it is something they struggle with now, with your support it is a challenge they can overcome.
Praising your child is very important. Avoid criticizing your child unnecessarily especially for losing concentration. When you notice that your child’s concentration is drifting, try to bring him back to his senses without criticizing them.