As both a teacher and bonus mama (and previous to that, a nanny for many years), I’ve learned that concentration and focus look different for every single child. For some children, the ability to sit still and listen comes naturally. For others, this is more of a challenge. Regardless of where your kiddo ‘fits,’ there are ways to improve your child’s concentration—and to do so naturally.
Why is this important?
Well, the practice of mindfulness—focusing on the present moment—not only has many mental health benefits (ranging from increased happiness and stress management to improved academic and test performance), but it also helps children to feel more grounded, aware, and even confident.
Here are some simple ways you can help your child(ren) strengthen their ‘focus muscles’:
Make Time for Mindfulness
If you want to improve your child’s concentration, then you have to make time for mindfulness in your schedule.
What does this look like?
Honestly, it’s going to be different for every child and family, but the idea is to make time to slow down, rest, and meditate, as well as find activities where sustained attention is a core component.
For example, schedule time for your child to practice concentrating on a certain task for a suitable period of time. This can be playing a board game, having a family discussion, reading a book, etc.
It’s important to note that young children (ages 4-5), can normally maintain their attention for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on the task—with, of course, less time with unfamiliar and hard tasks, and more time with things that they find innately appealing.
Model Focusing On One Thing At A Time
In our busy, technology-driven, and often fast-paced culture, teaching your child to focus on one item at a time is really important. Many children are used to the unending ‘scroll’ feeds or ‘one-click’ purchases—the idea of instant (or close to instant) gratification whether you’re dealing with an item, a person, or an experience.
Although multitasking and moving at a fast pace may be praised in our adult lives, it actually causes causes us to lose our concentration and perform worse than when we are not multitasking. Following the principle of mindfulness, completing one activity at a time (and modeling this for your child) can help.
Create A Designated Time & Workspace
Because multitasking reduces focus, it’s critical to eliminate unnecessary distractions from the work environment (for adults, yes, but for kids, too!). That means getting rid of toys, games, technology, TV, cell phones, or anything else that might cause attention challenges.
Whether you’re creating a classroom ‘look alike,’ or simply designating an area of the bedroom for learning, it’s a good idea to try to make this space look different. For example, you can create tropical classroom themes in your child’s learning space so that it feels like ‘school.’
If your child uses technology for schoolwork, you may want to add parental monitoring software. You can enable an auto shut-off of the internet after a certain length of time has passed or even add ‘blocked’ websites. As children grow older, you can transition to a self-monitoring software to help your children manage their time more autonomously.
This helps to create structure, responsibility, and, of course, productivity.
Make Intentional ‘Pauses’ In the Schedule
After concentrating for a long period of time, children need to get up, walk around, and engage in something different and not too hard. Particularly during after-school study time, kiddos benefit from having some downtime to recuperate and re-charge their batteries.
Younger children can have a snack or a creative play break, and older kids can use the time to check their phones, call their friends, go online, or even take a walk. The important thing, regardless of your child’s age, is that you make rest intentional to refocus the brain and help to improve your child’s concentration and attention when he/she returns to the task.
To read other tips on concentration and focus, head to our Education page.