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Your children want to focus and their brain is eager to learn, but sometimes you need to help the process along. Here are 5 simple ways you can increase your child’s ability to focus more successfully.
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD FOCUS BETTER?
Ever watch your child sit and play with toys throughout a movie and seem totally disengaged from what’s on the screen? And yet, once it’s over they can quote lines from it verbatim? Even though they didn’t focus on it at all.
Oddly enough, that same child can sit beautifully through a history lesson and not remember one blessed fact. It’s astounding, really. My kids did this all the time and it drove me nuts.
It’s a mystery, isn’t it? Or is it?
Quite simply, every child needs to be engaged to focus enough to learn. If they are too bored from sitting still, they will miss what you are reading to them. You could have spent hours lesson planning what you want to share, but their minds aren’t prepared to receive it.
1. GET MOVING
It’s no secret that children have a lot of energy to burn. In his book Spark, Dr. Ratey details that exercising the body also exercises the brain.
Exercise wakes up the body and the brain both, so it’s a good idea to wake up and get moving if you want to focus better.
Exercise also releases certain neurotransmitters to the brain, which helps it work better. When your child is running around outside or jumping on the trampoline, their body isn’t the only thing getting a workout; their brain is, too.
It’s amazing how God knit mind and body together.
What are some easy ways to help your child move? Wake them up and dance around the kitchen to a favorite song or two before breakfast.
Maybe you can do a short 10-minute workout with them before the start of the school day. If the weather is nice, time them to see how fast they can run around the house and have them try to beat their own time once a week.
Whatever you decide, getting them moving is sure to increase their ability to focus better.
2. SLEEP WELL
There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning after a late night. It’s so hard to drag yourself out of bed and nearly impossible to feel motivated to do anything worthwhile.
Kids feel the same exact way, even if they don’t show it like an adult does.
It’s no secret that your child needs sleep, but they may need more than they are getting. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children between the ages of 6 and 13 need 9-11 hours of sleep at night.
And that high schooler who stays up late chatting with friends or knocking out a last-minute homework assignment? She should actually be getting 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
No wonder our children don’t focus better!
3. EAT THE RIGHT FOODS
Have you ever experienced a food coma after Thanksgiving dinner or an overindulgent dessert? That’s what happens when our bodies get too much of a good thing or we eat certain foods. However, a meal that is rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs will give energy instead of exhaustion.
However, a meal that is rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs will give energy instead of exhaustion.
Different children have different levels of needs, but paying attention to your child’s diet is a simple way for you to help him focus better.
We found out that our son can’t handle red or yellow dyes; give that kid some strawberry gelatin and he forgot how to do math problems that he had been doing perfectly all year! Our daughter has been on a sugar free lifestyle for a couple of years now because after eating a treat she would say, “My brain just won’t work; I can’t think at all.”
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard; it’s just as easy to pack an apple as it is a bag of chips. A whole grain wrap filled with chicken and cheese is just as easy to slap together as a ham and cheese on white bread. Hard boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast are just as easy as cereal. However, they may help your children focus better than the alternatives.
4. LET THEM FIDGET
Have you ever just let your kids fidget? In my experience, it’s an awesome way to help them focus better. Here are some ways we do that:
- Balance Cushions~ These things are awesome! I’ve actually contemplated getting one for myself, after trying out my daughter’s for a day. Basically, your brain is getting a workout keeping you stable on the cushion while you’re focusing on the task at hand. We added these to our kitchen benches for homeschooling time and the difference was definitely noteworthy.
- Tanagrams (pattern blocks)~ These are also something we utilize daily around here. When I sit down to read our science or history aloud, I pull a big box of these out and the kids fiddle around making shapes. Some use patterns that we have printed out to make a designated design, while other are more free spirited. Legos are another good option.
- Drawing or Doodling~ My kids love a nice sketchpad and colored pencils. I let them doodle during church and have been amazed at how much more they hear when it’s happening. They also doodle during some of our school lessons, and I find it helps them focus. Of course I shouldn’t be surprised — one glance at my day planner and you know they come by it naturally!
- Balance a ball on their feet~ This is one that my six year old taught me. He would put this small rubber ball we got at the dollar store on his feet and try not to drop it while he was doing math questions. It certainly seems to be one way that he focuses better.
5. PRACTICE WITH A TIMER
This may seem a little silly, but consider setting a timer and letting your child practice doing one thing for three minutes. Next week, have him try to do it for five minutes.
Setting a goal and meeting it is a very fulfilling act, and helping your child do that will make them take pride in their ability to do just one thing instead of frustrate them. Over time, it’s amazing how long they can grow their concentration and focus better.
Meeting a deadline is achieving a victory. We set timers for chores, homework, and a myriad of miscellaneous activities that don’t allow them to fidget while they are being completed. It’s always so encouraging to them when they finish before the timer beeps!
TOOLS IN THEIR TOOLBOX
The best gift you can give your child is tools in their toolbox. Since you won’t always be there to remind them what choices to make or when to pay attention, teaching them to see those opportunities and remember what to do is so important.
In the beginning I would tell my children what to do, but more recently I will ask them, “What do you need to do right now and what will help you do it?”
It’s so beautiful to see the light glow on their faces as they answer and accomplish. I used to joke that getting one of my son’s to do his schoolwork was harder than trying to give a cat a bath.
Now? He sits down each morning with his assignment book and proudly checks off each task throughout the day.
The other day he came to me and said, “Guess what I figured out? If I walk my dog after I finish a subject, the next subject is easier. I like being outside and running, because then I do better inside.” Great job, son! You figured out what you needed and you used that tool to build a successful school day.
All of these suggestions are ones we use in our home and I hope as you try them in yours, you’ll enjoy the look of victory on your child’s face when they focus better than ever.
If you have any tips I haven’t included here, please leave a comment so we can all learn from it! And if you try one of these and find it works for your sweet one, please share that victory so we can rejoice together.