In an age of constant distractions, these tips will help your little ones keep on track.
Your child sits in class all day but doesn’t remember a morsel of what he learned. He often drifts off task and has trouble sustaining his attention for longer than just a few minutes. As children progress through school, the focusing demands increase rapidly. They are expected to concentrate when reading stories, listen to teachers explaining multi-step directions, and stay on task while completing increasingly challenging tasks. Help your child stay focused in school with the ideas detailed below.
Working out of a workbook or listening to an adult explain a concept can seem mundane for many children. Instead of using one-dimenstional instruction, try employing a multi-sensory approach when working with your child. For instance, to help her focus on comprehending material when reading, try this tri-colored highlighting strategy: have her read a passage, then identify the topic, which is 1-3 words describing the passage, and highlight it in blue; then identify the main idea, which is what the author is saying about the topic, and highlight it in green; and finally find the important details and highlight them in yellow. Interacting with the text will help your child process the information and remain more focused when reading.
You can also teach younger children how to write letters using a multi-sensory approach. First demonstrate forming a letter in the air while saying the strokes aloud, like “down, up, and around” for the letter p. Then have her trace the letter in the sky with you and on her own, then in colored sand, sugar, or shaving cream. The more multi-sensory you can make the activities, the more you will captivate her attention and increase her ability to stay focused on a task.
When your child sits down to complete homework, remove any and all distractions that may de-rail his focus. If he is sitting at a desk with a computer, make sure the computer is turned off or is in sleep mode to avoid any flashing lights or sounds that may distract him. The same is true for iPads or other electronics — move them to a place that is out of sight for your child. If he works at a kitchen table or desk in another room, try to minimize all background noises and even smells that may be distracting.
Playing certain games can help your child improve her ability to stay focused for longer periods of time. Try playing the game Red Light/Green Light, for instance. To do so, all players stand on a starting line. When you say “green light,” the players start moving towards the finish line. When you say “red light,” the players must stop immediately. If a player keeps moving when you say “red light,” she moves back to the start line. The first player to reach the finish line wins. When playing this game, you child must listen carefully and focus on the instructions in order to make it to the finish line, thereby exercising her ability to remain focused.
Playing other games, such as Memory, can also help increase your child’s focusing abilities. To play, lay down a series of cards upside down and have each player turn over any two cards. If they match, the player keeps them but if they don’t, the player must focus on the card images in order to remember them for her next turn. Playing similar games, like I Spy, Simon Says, or Concentration can all help your child develop stronger focusing abilities.
You can also download some focus-building apps for your child to play. Concentration – the Attention Trainer is a great one for preschoolers and kindergartners. This app consists of puzzles and memory exercises that are fun and engaging, and that also build focusing, problem solving, speed, and retention skills. Players can track their progress and earn rewards along the way.
Your child will inevitably be required to focus for longer periods of time in school, and on increasingly complex material. Try these exercises and help him become more on task, focused, and ready for the challenges to come.