Like all life skills, concentration too can be enhanced. Concentration is the ability to focus on specific tasks for long periods of time. Improving children’s attention span can increase their productivity and academic success.
We have outlined 10 key aspects which influence your child’s ability to concentrate. Additionally, there are some practical tips you can implement in children’s everyday routine to improve children’s overall well-being and help keep them focused for more extended periods of time.
We can all agree that getting an adequate amount of sleep plays a significant role in how much energy and focus children have. A recent study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies revealed that particularly young teens (aged 12-15) do not get enough sleep on weeknights and commonly try to catch up by sleeping longer on weekends. This routine is not as beneficial because it leads to a disrupted sleep cycle and can impact children’s focus negatively.
The Australian Department of Health recommends that children aged between 5-13 years should be getting approximately 9-11 hours sleep whilst children between 14-17 should get 8-10 hours sleep. Parents can support children to get adequate sleep by creating a regular routine in the household, limiting technology use before bedtime and reducing intake of caffeinated drinks and sugar.
2. Exercise & Co-Curricular Activities
Physical activity is proven not just to improve concentration and focus, but also positively influence a range of other factors for children such as problem-solving, motor skills, self-esteem, confidence and mental health. Allowing children to participate in sports such as swimming, soccer and netball or other co-curricular activities such as drama, dance, music will help them burn off energy and in turn concentrate better.
If your child’s school is in the local neighbourhood, you could consider walking to school instead of driving a few times per week. Apart from the obvious benefits that physical fitness has, studies by the University of Toronto demonstrated that children who walk to school have been found to have higher academic performance in terms of attention, verbal, numeric, reasoning abilities and lower levels of stress during the day.
3. Well Balanced Diet
You will know from experience, that a fizzy drink or sugar packed lollies are unlikely to help your child sit down and concentrate. Therefore, a well-balanced diet is essential to help maintain children’s attention.
Here are a few foods that are proven to support children’s concentration and alertness (Derived from BBC Goodfood)
- Fish (Omega-3 is an essential component for brain cells development)
- Oats & Cereals (Release energy slowly, full of vitamin B and high in fibre)
- Yoghurt, Milk, Cheese (Protein and Calcium are vital for brain tissue growth)
Alongside a healthy diet also comes the importance of staying hydrated! Our bodies are made up of 60-80%, and this allows us to have a greater focus on tasks. Children are more physically active than adults, resulting in a greater loss of water. Give children their own water bottle and keep reminding them to drink water throughout the day. You can also try fruit juices or fruit salads to make sure children don’t get dehydrated.
5. Split big tasks into smaller tasks
It can be quite overwhelming for children to keep attentive for long periods of time. Parents can assist children in utilising time better by dividing their workload into small chunks. Try to do one thing at a time and teach children how to prioritise their tasks by importance. This is an important skill they need for effective organisation.
For example, if children need to study a chapter for 45 minutes, try dividing them into 15-minute periods, each followed by a snack or a short game. This will help sustain children’s attention for more extended periods of time, give them something to look forward to and also achieve the desired goal of studying.
6. Mind games
Playing mind and strategy games with your child can also help build problem-solving skills, logic, reasoning, focus and attention. This should be kept casual and can be executed anywhere and anytime. For example, car trips, mealtimes, grocery shopping or during children’s study breaks. It just gives children a quick opportunity to concentrate, comprehend and then answer effectively. A few examples of mind games include:
- Word Jumbles
- Eye Spy
- Rhyming Words
- Maths Puzzles
- Tongue Twisters
7. Relaxation and Mindfulness
Children struggle to sit still for a long time, so incorporating simple mindfulness exercises during the day will provide great benefit to your child’s focus. Movement-based meditation such as yoga or deep breathing is also highly recommended for children to keep calm, move their bodies and relax their mind.
8. Reduce distractions
A major reason for a lack of focus in both adults and children is the failure to resist distractions. We do live in the twenty-first century, so children are surrounded with devices and are bombarded with exciting visual and auditory stimuli daily.
Research by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute indicated that children aged between 8-9 who watch over 2 hours of TV per day performed lower in reading two years later compared to peers who had watched minimal TV. It might be helpful to create screen-free time in your child’s daily routine where children might engage in other activities such as reading or drawing instead of being preoccupied with social media, online gaming and technology.
9. Different learning methods
It’s essential to keep an open mind when it comes to children’s diverse learning methods. Every child has their own unique way of learning and acquiring knowledge. Children can be visual learners, auditory learners, kinaesthetic learners or even a mix of all! Try to cater to children’s diverse needs by providing a range of educational resources to support their concentration and ensure they have an enjoyable learning experience.
10. Creating a positive and supportive environment
When children are given positive reinforcement for their efforts, they are more motivated to complete tasks. Concentration and focus will come naturally to children if they are determined and supported by their loved ones.
We’re ending on this note because ultimately, parents and family’s attitudes and interactions with children are the most significant factor in ensuring children feel valued. Creating a positive environment for children allows them to thrive not just academically but sets them up for achieving lifelong success.