Homeschooling can be challenging and frustrating for any parent. When your child is struggling with lack of focus, it can be even more so. But with a few handy tricks and a good bit of patience, you can help your kids learn to focus better, for longer periods of time.
8 Ways to Help Your Child Focus
The key to getting kids to focus is to consistently stick to the lessons you are trying to teach them. When working towards a better attention span try a combination of techniques until you find what works for your child. Consistency is the key to teaching your child to focus on their own. A lot of patience doesn’t hurt either. Here are a few things you can try.
Use up excess energy
Kids are full of energy and love to bounce around. This can make it really hard for them to focus when they need to. You can counteract this by adding plenty of activity to your child’s day.
Starting the day with some form of exercise — whether it be as simple as some jumping jacks or as elaborate as a sports practice — is a great way to start the day for fidgety, active kids that need help releasing excess energy. You can even make this time productive by starting the day with morning chores. This is a great way to make the most of your time and use up energy, all while doing something that needs to be done. Some examples of chores that work well for this purpose include vacuuming, mowing the grass, raking leaving, shoveling snow, and picking up sticks in the yard.
Your child also needs plenty of opportunities to get up and move around throughout the day. Kids that struggle with focus can often benefit from some time to stop thinking and just be active. Giving your child brain breaks, while adding in extra activity is a great way to improve focus and learning capacity. Look for opportunities to add in physical activity each day. A great took for this is a mini-trampoline. My son also enjoyed having a punching bag, which served the dual purpose of giving him an active outlet and also one for expressing anger when needed.
Keep hands busy
Some kids focus better when they are able to fidget. By providing your child with the tools that allow them to keep their hands busy is one of the best things you can do to help your fidgety child focus. By providing the right tools you are giving your child a whole host of opportunities to work on their ability to focus. Great options for fidgety children is to provide them with the supplies to keep their hands busy, such as fidget toys and play dough. Even crochet is a great fidgety hands activity for kids.
When listening to read aloud books, make a point of giving your child something to do with their hands. This is a great time to pull out coloring sheets related to the book, Legos, and other simple activities that do not use much thought to engage with.
Try essential oils or herbs
Many families are having great success with natural treatments and tools for helping their children succeed. If your child has trouble focusing, talk to a certified aromatherapist to find natural solutions to your child’s individual struggles. For most kids, Lavender, Roman chamomile, Cedarwood, Vetiver and citrus oils, such as Sweet Orange are all great options for essential oils that can help your child focus. If you have a decent collection of essential oils already, try this recipe for a “peaceful child.”
Capture your child’s attention
One of the best ways you can help your child to focus is to engage them in learning something that truly captures their attention. This is why so mnay parents find success with child-led learning options and unit studies. Find something your child is passionate about and work in the lessons you want them to learn around that main central topic. This can be a great way to get your child to focus and develop of love of learning simultaneously. We all find it much easier to pay attention when we are truly interested in what we are learning. Encourage your child to explore new things and find new interests that you can use to help them learn.
Create a distraction-free zone
When your child needs to focus on something a bit more challenging it can be a major asset to offer kids a space that has been cleared of distractions. A quiet room with a workspace and no TV or other children can help your child focus. If you don’t have a room available for this purpose, try setting up a station using a plain tri-fold board on a desk or table. Even minimizing visual distractions can be helpful.
Break tasks down
Large tasks that take a lot of time can be a struggle for kids that have a hard time maintaining focus. Breaking things down into smaller tasks can help relieve anxiety from large tasks as well as making it easier to concentrate. Kids with short attention spans can thrive when projects are broken down into short tasks even when those tasks take a large amount of focus to accomplish. It is a lot easier to give full focus to something for 5 minutes at a time than an hour. For many years, we used a timer system based on the Pomodoro technique. This method uses a timer to focus work in short spurts, followed by short breaks. Five to ten minutes every 30 minutes to an hour (depending on the age of your child) is usually plenty long enough, with a longer 30-minute break every few hours. These breaks are a great time to put that mini-trampoline to good use!
Limit Screen Time
I know you know. We all know. Screens (TV, phones, tablets, computers) are a huge distraction problem for many kids these days. They’re easy babysitters and we are often wooed with the idea of “educational” apps and programming into believing that technology is a must for kids. The time may come when technology will be a blessing for homeschooling your teen, and I am in no way suggesting that it’s not important. As time goes on, it will likely become even more necessary to succeed in life. But in the early years especially, they are best left tucked away except for special times. According to Psychology Today:
A number of troubling studies connect delayed cognitive development in kids with extended exposure to electronic media.
Be patient and consistent
As kids learn to focus things can get a bit frustrating for parents. Make an effort to keep your cool in front of your child. Reacting in a negative way can lead to anxiety that can make it hard for your child to focus.
It will be important for you to focus yourself on creating consistent routines that help your child grow stronger at paying attention for longer periods of time. It takes much effort, patience, and consistency, especially in the beginning, but the reward of training your child in this manner is more than worth it. The pay-off will come and it can be life-changing for both you and your child.