How to improve concentration and focus in kids

Getting children to focus isn’t always easy. The world around them is a playground and all the people merely players. They haven’t yet reached an age where they can understand the importance of concentrating solely on one thing to ensure optimal progression. But, if we are honest with ourselves, isn’t this true of us all? The exception being children don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong! That’s where we step in!

If we take a second to put this into context, let’s consider a child’s brain like a spiderweb and us the adults, the spider. Without the spider safeguarding her web, it becomes delicate, susceptible to damage and ultimately left weak and exposed. However, when a spider remains with her web, the web becomes stronger, bigger and can respond instantly to outside events. It is therefore our role as parents and carers to ensure a child’s brain can flourish and teach them how to weave information into their brains to last.

A lack of concentration does not mean there is something wrong with your child.It does not mean you are a bad parent. It does not mean your child’s lack of focus is irreversible. What it does, in fact mean, is that change needs to happen because like Einstein once said, “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” is quite obviously insane.

The important lesson to learn here is: while children are young we need to do our utmost best to engage them actively in whatever they do. This will have a direct impact on the information a child can retain. It is easier to learn new skills when we are young as our brains are still growing and this must be taken advantage of. Teaching yourself some simple methods to use with your child can really enhance this learning cycle.

How to improve concentration and focus in kids?

  1. Praise
  2. The internet
  3. Do one thing at a time
  4. Creative Games that activate the right side of the brain
  5. Have your child teach you something
  6. Use distractions to your advantage
  7. Figure out what type activities works best for your child
  8. Be Mindful

1. Praise

Imagine how good we feel about ourselves when we receive praise. We tend to remember why we received the praise and therefore are more likely to repeat the same behaviours. If we want our children to remember then building their self-esteem in key. “Amazing job.” “I am so impressed with the amount of effort you have shown.”  “You should be so proud of yourself.” It sounds simple right? Like I’m teaching you to suck eggs but you would be amazed how many times we forget to praise the small things and it is these small victories that begin the journey to get success.

2. The Internet

Out of sight; out of mind. What a child cannot see, they will not crave. Of course,this will take time to implement and we cannot expect a child to simply forget the existence of an iPad but we must begin from somewhere. We live in a world so highly dominated by technology. Yes, it has its purposes. Yes, it can be beneficial in education. Yes, I have a slight addiction to it! But…and it is a big but, it should always be used in moderation. Creating a weekly internet access schedule can help manage a child’s time whilst calmly implementing boundaries  without having to physically drag it out of your child’s hands. Detoxing your own usage will have a significant impact on your child’s concentration and they will appreciate they are not alone in this challenge.

3. Do one thing at a time

English, Maths and Science. History, Art and Sport. Our children switch from subject to subject at school, their brains expected to adapt to the varying content they are taught. Try to  remove this lack of consistency at home and adopt a timetable which groups lessons that have elements in common. Ensure to set aside a reasonable amount of time for your child to practice focusing on a specific task. Multitasking merely leads to a lack of concentration and therefore weakens our performance. Focus on one problem at a time and you will notice the difference.

4. Creative Games that activate the right side of the brain

Learning does not have to be boring nor does it have to be rigid. Children spend so much time using the left side of their brains for logical,rational activities and thus the right side can become neglected. Therefore, use time at home to stimulate the right side and increase overall brain capacity. Make puppets and use them to teach your children, sing songs, play charades…anything that will stimulate concentration and lead to memory retention.  

5. Have your child teach you something

“I’m not sure I understand that, please could you explain it to me?” The satisfaction a child gets from sharing knowledge is invaluable. Not only will you notice increased confidence from your child, they will also subconsciously embed their knowledge far deeper. They will remember the lesson they taught you because they will feel special about sharing it.

6. Use distractions to your advantage

It is easy for me to say ‘remove all distractions from your home’, but this is simply unrealistic and let’s face it, very time consuming. So I propose, rather than seeing internal stimulus as a negative, use it to your advantage. If a child sees something that is not part of the lesson, ask them about it. Ask they to describe it. Ask they where it came from. Ask they how much they think it would cost. However, which way you can, link it to the lesson and incorporate it into the learning. Visual stimulus increase the ability of  child to remember so chances are it will be a positive addition to the lesson.

7. Figure out what type activities works best for your child

We all tend to fall into one particular learning style:

  • Visual- learning by seeing and looking
  • Auditory- learning by listening and hearing
  • Kinesthetic- learning by touching and doing

It is important to diagnose which style suits your child and plan activities accordingly. Some children may be a mix, so again ensure this is considered when planning activities.

Visual Learners will benefit from colourful diagrams and illustrations. They will prefer to take notes whilst they are listening. Phrases such as “Can you see what I am showing you?” will be extremely encouraging for visual learning. They enjoy puzzles, mind maps and building blocks, therefore use resources to capitalize on this. Flashcards, comics and cartoons and whiteboard games are all successful methods to enable visual learners to remember.

Auditory Learners will really enjoy have discussions and debates with you. They will thrive off conversation and acquire knowledge by reading aloud. When they’re reading, give feedback such as ‘This sounds amazing’ or ‘I can hear you clearly’. One strategies to help auditory learners is to record the discussion/lesson. Usually students are asked to take notes but this does not bode well with auditory learners.  A recording will allow your child to listen back and re-visit the information in an auditory way. Furthermore, ask your child to repeat facts with their eyes shut-this will help them focus on their strongest sense and reduce any focus on the others.

Kinesthetic Learners love the freedom of the classroom. They will need lots of planned breaks so that they can move around and use some of their physical energy. They respond very well to plenty of hand gestures when you are speaking, it will keep their focus and increase their understanding. Include lots of praise and ask them how they ‘feel’ about particular ideas raised in the lesson. You might want to teach your child standing up as their body will feel more engaged and connected to the learning taking place. Use different stationary, for example, pens, pencils, highlighters and use them to make reading a physical thing. Make a key at the top and mark different words and phrases according to the key. Most importantly, get creative with your children! If a topic is difficult, attack it from a new angle. Make the characters from a story, build blocks to show ratios, paint a picture of the globe whilst discussing geography… Kinesthetic learners have a strong motor memory and they are more likely to remember from doing and building rather than simply reading.

8. Be Mindful

Remember that most children are overworked, overstimulated and therefore become overtired. Concentration, like any skill can be improved; staying patient and mindful with your children is key. Watch your child’s sleep patterns, watch what they are eating and appreciate the stress they can be under socially and academically. Explore all avenues and practise different methods and you will soon see which is the best fit for your child.

Emily Woodward

Author: Sim K