One of the greatest advantages of being a kid is that their job is full of so many wonderful benefits—being carefree, playful, feisty, curious, spirited, silly, messy, even naughty are all part of the deal. With all of that going on, coupled with the tremendous amount of multi-tasking our kids seem to take for granted, it’s easy to see how even the brightest learners in our midst can have trouble staying focused.
Distractions begin the moment our children rise and shine. With their smartphones practically under their pillows, they begin their day checking in with Snapchat, texts, online video games, and all the other avenues of social media they continuously plug into throughout the day. Once they tend to these important areas of life, they scramble to get dressed, snatch their backpacks and catch the bus or their ride to school (and forget about eating breakfast). It’s a pretty normal cycle for thousands of families across the country, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up.
The average human has an eight-second attention span–less than that of a goldfish, according to a 2015 study from Microsoft. For kids who have so much going on in their world, focusing can be a real challenge, especially while studying.
One of my favorite mantras when my kids were in Kindergarten was a little chant the teacher used to sing when the class got off track—“Hocus pocus, time to focus!” The kids loved it and immediately settled back down to tackle the task at hand. Twenty-some years later, I still kiddingly chant that mantra when I find myself or someone in my family drifting astray, but it doesn't have the same effect it did all those years ago. Here are five tips for helping keep your family members centered when life whirls around them in a million different directions.
5 Ways to Keep Your Kid Focused
- Get Creative
- Choose Focus Foods
- Foster an Organized Environment
- Stay On Task with the Right App
- Encourage Mindfulness
Let’s explore each a little further.
1. Get Creative
Believe it or not, many times the reason a child just can’t settle in and stay focused is because he is bored. One of my sons is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) so learning to read and write were small nightmares for him (and me!). He just didn’t have the patience or ability to sit and practice his letters and words like his peers, which led to major frustrations.
Luckily, he had a wonderful support system in school that recognized kids like him with ADD had to learn differently. He hated practicing writing his letters on a regular-lined tablet of paper, so his teacher had him write the letters in other ways like in shaving cream, or with chalk. This creative approach got him engaged and eventually he was willing to sit down and write the alphabet on paper.
Same with learning to read. He was not interested in being drilled with flash cards or staring at words in an easy-reader book, but when we read together and acted out some of the words he began to learn them. For example, instead of hammering the word “apple” and “boy” over and over we changed it up and grabbed a real apple and held it up at the same time we were learning the new word. I would refer to the word apple in the story by holding up the actual apple. I then pointed to him and labeled the word boy and referred back to the story as more of a “show and tell” to help him register what the word looked like in print. We then made it silly by joking about how the boy in the story was very hungry and wanted to take a big bite out of the apple. It kept his interest as he learned to read new words.
So a little creativity can go a long way in turning something dull into something fun, and kids like my son are able to sit and concentrate much longer than just being taught from a book or a blackboard.
See Also: 5 Ways to be a More Playful Parent
2. Choose Focus Foods
While we’ve always known that what we eat affects our bodies and the way we look, scientists are also learning more and more that what we eat takes a toll on our brains. My colleague, Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS, the Nutrition Diva discusses this topic in her episode, How Nutrition Affects Your Brain. In general, she explains that there aren’t any foods that actually make us smarter, but the choices we make in our diet can play an important role in optimizing brain function. Some of her important tips in this segment include:
- Eating a healthy diet including whole grains, fruits and veggies, and lots of protein.
- Eating breakfast. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast are better learners. (Mighty Mommy seconds this!)
- Avoiding large meals or foods high in sugar.
- Get enough sleep and exercise. For more detail take a listen to her entire episode on how nutrition affects your brain.
In addition to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, there have been studies done that show certain foods do indeed pack a wallop of ingredients like antioxidants to help keep your brain sharp. In 21 Superfoods Your Brain Wants You To Eat, you’ll learn why foods such as pomegranates, sage, blueberries and celery can benefit your body and your brain.