Concentration is like a muscle – it requires regular exercise for it to strengthen. Your child might have relatively good focus skills, but most children struggle with it, affecting their ability at school, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
As a private tutor, I teach all ages of children who all have different focus levels. Although it may be easy for them to concentrate when there are fun activities involved, when they face a subject they find boring, it won’t take them long to lose interest and become distracted. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few simple strategies to help build my student’s concentration muscles and boost their focus.
So, here are my tips to help your child remain engaged for longer:
1. Limit directions to one or two at a time.
When kids struggle with focus, it can be hard for them to listen to, remember, and follow through on directions. So try not to overload your child with too many directions at once. This has happened to me in the past. When I dialled back the instructions and expected ‘less’, the student was also more motivated and willing to complete all the tasks at hand.
2. Set a timer.
Knowing there’s a limit to how long they have to stay focused can make it easier for kids to hang in there. Set a timer for how long your child needs to work before having a quick snack or taking a play break. You can increase the amount of time little by little as your child (or student) gets better at focusing.
Mindfulness exercises are all about paying attention and focusing. Studies have shown that mindfulness can help kids improve their behaviour and ability to focus on lessons and schoolwork. One way to practice is to sit quietly and focus on breathing in and out. Taking even a few deep breaths before the class/task begins could make a difference. It also helps you as a parent and us as teachers keep our calm as well!
4. Be open to different strategies.
Some people need total quiet to focus. Others do better with noise. That’s why it’s important to ask your child what works best for them. Have you tried playing some classical music in the background? I’ve heard lots of positive reviews from parents about how it helps maintain focus for their children. It has worked with my own son!
5. Direct focus back to the task.
Come up with a signal for when your child’s mind starts to wander. Perhaps come to an agreement with them so they have some input into it and see if that might work. It might be giving a loud double clap or saying a specific ‘alert’ word.
Some kids are going to struggle with attention more than others. But, like any skill, focus and concentration can be improved and made automatic. All it takes is a little extra thought and being consistent.
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