Help your child focus. A tall order for any dedicated parent! But we are in luck. Co-author of the popular Brain Stages book, and dedicated mom, Patricia Wilkinson has 14 simple strategies on how to help a distracted child focus. And it is brilliant! Read on to discover her secrets to helping your child focus.
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My child can make me feel so frustrated! Do you feel that way sometimes? I think we all do. Kids’ developing brains flit from one thing to the next. Getting them to finish putting away their toys before something else catches their eye can feel impossible.
But in today’s world of distractions, isn’t it a wonder that any of us can focus throughout a conversation or an entire task? These days, paying attention takes effort for all of us—and most kids need direction to help them focus.
Here’s the good news
With some small tweaks in communication, a few activities, and a little practice, your kids will be able to focus. So. Much. Better. In today’s post, you’ll find 14 simple strategies to boost your child’s focusing power.
And kids who learn to focus, enjoy improved
- communication skills
- behavior and
We all want our kids to be able to concentrate and thrive, right? Try some of these well-tested tactics and watch your child blossom! You may amp your own focusing power while you’re at it. 😉
14 Ways to Help Kids’ Brains Get Better at Focusing
Time to discover how to help a distracted child easily and effectively. Remember to grab your free pdf copy of the cheat sheet to remind you of the 14 strategies.
Work together to establish a family routine, and be consistent
Our brains are all about keeping us safe. When kids feel safe, their brains are much better at learning, that is, their brains make new cells, neural connections, and neural pathways more efficiently as suggested in Social Intelligence.
A routine is a predictable sequence of actions or events. Talk with your family, come up with a schedule that works for everyone, and write it down. In about a week, revisit your routine to see what’s working and what isn’t, and revise as needed.
This works well even if your kids are too little to read and write as long as you and your partner communicate as a family and stay as true to your intention as possible.
You don’t have to be perfect. Just remember that an intentional, repetitive sequence of activities will allow your kids to know what’s coming next. This reduces anxiety and increases efficiency in the brain for better focus.
Pay attention to what your child eats
Healthy eating helps kids’ brains focus.
The problem is that a lot of kids who have trouble focusing crave processed carbs—bread, pasta, crackers, cereal, cookies . . . which metabolizes as sugar and isn’t good for kids’ memories. In fact, you’ll do your whole family a favor if you limit things like pizza, spaghetti, and most boxed cereals.
Healthy eating tips
- provide omega-rich foods, which improve learning, memory, and mental health
- try fish, eggs, walnuts, kiwi, soybeans, flax and chia seeds
- discover more great brain foods for kids
- feed your family fresh fruits and vegetables as often as possible to nurture brain development and function
- picky eaters in the house? try these tricks to get the kids to eat them
Meet physical needs to help your child focus
Kids who need help to focus often have brains that are more sensitive to getting their basic needs met than other children.
The most important needs to fulfill are
- nutrition, as we have discussed in the how to help a distracted child number two section above
- 6-8 glasses of water daily
- and sleep
- 9 to 11 hours as suggested by researchers
It’s hard to think when you’re hungry, thirsty, or tired, right? Imagine how your child feels in full-growth mode, which requires a lot of energy. When your child lacks in any of these areas, thinking becomes impaired – and focus is the first thing to go.
Useful brain fact
Brains are what scientists call “plastic.” That means they can develop and change. Getting all these needs met can be tough when we get busy. But the more consistent you can be with a healthy diet, plenty of water, and ample sleep, the more your child’s brain will be able to move toward better focus.
Provide opportunities for daily physical exercise
Working up a good sweat is good for all of us but is particularly important for kids who struggle to focus, especially those kids who have trouble sleeping. Heart-pumping exercise produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor, active in
- producing new cells
- cell growth and
Exercise also helps kids sleep, which repairs damaged cells and reboots our brains for a new day. A quick and easy focus fix you can implement today.
Learn how to raise a brilliant child with 8 powerful actions you must know.
Model good listening
When your child tells you a story or talks about something that happened at school, focus on the conversation with intention.
Sometimes it’s hard to ignore interruptions when our kids talk to us. Our phones can be especially distracting. But remember, you can call back or respond to a text later. If you must give in to your phone
- apologize for the interruption, and
- remind your child where the two of you left off to continue the conversation
If a sibling competes for attention, either include them in the conversation or hold up a hand for your other child to wait. We have to model intentional focus if we want our kids to learn to focus.
Discover more brilliant parent-child communication tips here.
Touch your child
A gentle physical connection like a hand on the shoulder or arm can get your child’s attention and keep it long enough for the two of you to have a conversation.
The brain is a marvelous network of systems that work together. The sensation your child feels on his arm also fires neural pathways that participate in processing language.
Meet your child eye-to-eye
Eye contact is another form of connection. And connection helps us focus. If your child is small, squat so you can listen and talk at eye-level. You can also sit on a couch or bench together. But no matter the age, from toddler to teen, look at your child and encourage the same respect throughout your conversations.
Being on your child’s eye level is one of the parent-child communication tips you need to know.parent-child communication tips.
Have your child establish a special signal
Most kids age 5 and older can choose a signal for family members to use to alert them to re-focus.
Maybe a tug on an ear lobe or the tap of a finger on your chin. That way, when their minds begin to drift, they can be reminded to pay attention without embarrassment.
Play memory games
Memory is like a muscle. if you exercise it, it gets stronger. Kids who have trouble focusing often can pay better attention when they practice using their memories.
A few example activities
- clap patterns
- take turns doing clap patterns and
- copy each other’s rhythms
- add-a-move game
- make a move, add one more, and so on
- match pairs
Add-a-move game example
Touch your nose, for instance. Then your child touches his nose and stomps his foot. You touch your nose, stomp your foot, and waggle your tongue. Your child does all those things in order and shakes her hands in the air, and so on. The sillier you get, the more kids love this game!
Match pairs game tip
To start off, place only three or four pairs face down in random order. Have your child flip over cards, one at a time, to see if she can remember the location of the matching card. Starting with only a few pairs will ensure your child’s success. Add more pairs as she gains confidence.
Matching pairs is my six-year old’s favorite game and a brilliant way to help a distracted child focus! – Estie
Give one direction at a time
Most children, before age 6 or 7, have trouble following multiple directions. And kids’ brains develop at different rates. Our older daughter, who had severe difficulty with focus, responded best when we gave her one direction at a time through high school!
For some kids, asking them to clear the table and then take out the trash gets lost in their brains. They don’t end up doing either task. Whereas, when you ask them to do one specific thing, they can focus on that thing to completion.
Break projects into small bites
Taking one small step after another toward a goal until it’s achieved proves to kids that projects are doable and don’t have to be overwhelming. Offer praise for your child’s effort from start to finish, even if you used a couple of the suggestions above to help him re-focus.
These victories will help your child understand the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something. Soon he will learn how to turn projects into small steps by himself. All part of a Power Parenting strategy that works!
Use a timer
Challenge your child to finish a task before the timer goes off. Timers stress out some, but for many, the timer provides a fun challenge where kids can be successful.
The more your child finds success in maintaining focus, the greater the incentive to continue getting better at it.
Give your child an earplug
Putting an earplug in one ear creates soothing white noise and blocks just enough sound to help distractible kids stay focused through the noise that would otherwise derail their thoughts.
An earplug helps adults too. I’ve done this a lot when people around me are talking, and I have to concentrate. Give it a try!
Use colored dot stickers
The object is to help our kids eventually learn how to focus on their own, and colored dots can help.
When you think your child has the maturity to start working on her focusing ability on her own, ask her to choose a color. Then have her stick small dots of the same color on her pencils, e-tablet, and other tools. When her mind starts to drift, with practice, the dot will catch her eye and remind her to re-focus.
How to help a distracted child focus summarized
- Work together to establish a family routine and be consistent
- Pay attention to what your child eats
- Meet physical needs to help your child focus
- Provide opportunities for daily physical exercise
- Model good listening
- Touch your child
- Meet your child eye-to-eye
- Have your child establish a special signal
- Play memory games
- Give one direction at a time
- Break projects into small bites
- Use a timer
- Give your child an earplug
- Use colored dot stickers
There you have it,14 simple strategies to help your child focus and improve their school and home life. We hope you found some ways to try to help your child learn to focus. To find lots of other brain-based parenting tips, visit BrainStages.
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and let us know your favorite child focus strategy
Another awesome guest post
by Patricia Wilkinson, coauthor Brain Stages: How to Raise Smart, Confident Kids and Have Fun Doing It, K-5, who is the mother of two, and taught grades kindergarten through sixth for 23 years, in both public and private schools. Today, Trish facilitates life-changing workshops for parents and teachers. It’s amazing what can happen when years of creativity and practical experience merge with thousands of hours of brain research. Visit her at thebrainstages.com.
FREE Brain Stages Parent Workshop
Trish has a passion for helping parents
- understand how to meet their kids’ brains’ needs
- know they can raise their children into successful adults
And her incredible enthusiasm to do just that gives parents the amazing opportunity to join a Brain Stages Parent Workshop for FREE, with a minimum purchase of 10 books at schools anywhere in the US through 2019. Book yours now!
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