Of all the problems students face in early education, there are few more pressing than improving focus. And it’s not hard to see why. In a world that is increasingly dictated by any number of distractions (with some of them being actually quite helpful), keeping a child’s focus in school is challenging. Unfortunately, that same lack of focus can lead to some unsettling outcomes. It’s been estimated that students facing constant distraction regularly test an average of 18 percent lower on formalized test scores.
But the effects can be damaging, both at a long term level as well as cumulatively. A recent study from the University of Washington indicates that children with problems focusing are also at risk of high stress levels, decreased social skills and difficulties maintaining emotional control. Coupled with a child’s already burgeoning sense of identity and self esteem, it’s clear to see that focus problems aren’t solely academic issues. They’re developmental ones, as well.
While experts may place the blame for diminished focus in students on everything from social and economic disadvantages to hormonal imbalance, the culprit may not always be attributable to a mental or psychological condition. In fact, it may simply be a question of learning to encourage activities and behavior at home which can have an improved affect on your child’s attention span. If you’ve ever wondered how to better improve your child’s focus, here’s how you can start.
Encourage Role Playing At Home
Children are naturally imaginative. And it’s a distinctly human trait to be more focused when we’re indulging in pastimes that require creativity. But unfortunately, imagination is frequently stifled as we grow older. It’s not that imagination isn’t present. It’s just that we tend to forget it’s even there.
By encouraging your child to engage in activities such as role playing at home, you’re helping to develop their sense of focus and attention early on by applying it to an activity they find enjoyable. Furthermore, the repetition involved in remembering roles during games can actually help strengthen a child’s memory.
Limit Screen Time
The dangers of frequent exposure to electronic gadgets has been long documented both formally and informally. But many parents don’t realize just how dramatic the effects can be. Screen time doesn’t just create problems focusing for children. It’s been linked to behavioral problems and delayed speech and language in younger children.
The American Association of Pediatrics has recently established guidelines recommending no more than one hour a day of screen time for children ages 2 – 5 and no more than two hours for older children. While this may seem excessive if you’ve already introduced your children to electronic distractions, the earlier limits on their usage can often boost attention levels significantly.
Encourage Physical Exercise
Children frequently seem near inexhaustible in their energy levels. In fact, it can seem exhausting enough just to watch them! But all that excess energy needs a release. And by repressing it, it’s going to send confusing signals to the developing mind of a child—affecting concentration as well as their emotions.
Make sure your child has adequate play and exercise prior to homework. Not solely for their physical health, but their mental health as well. Not only will they feel refreshed, but they’ll be able to focus with a clear, uncluttered mind.
This goes for parents, too! Often times, both children and adults get so caught up in a particular problem that we can’t think straight. We get frustrated and think of any excuse not to focus on the tasks at hand. Encourage your kids to take time out when they feel they need to. Let them stand up, take a few breaths, grab a glass of water and relax for a few minutes. When they return, they’ll find they can think more sharply, clearly and confidently.
Don’t Interfere, But Wait
Children get bored very easily. Losing focus comes quite naturally to them. Particularly in environments where there’s no other choice but to wait. Grocery lines. Bank teller lines. Waiting rooms. And no matter how encouraged you might be to play counting or guessing games during these times, teaching them patience can actually help your child learn to focus.
Children adapt to new behavior more successfully the younger they are. By teaching them patience early on, you’re not just teaching them about regulating their behavior. You’re also teaching them how to focus their attention. Give them a small word puzzle to figure out. Or a connect the dots pattern. Often times, they’ll become so engrossed in the process that a 60 minute waiting time at the DMV can seem more like three!
Are you struggling to get your child to learn how to focus? At Handprints Child Care, we don’t just teach kids their ABCs. We teach them how to learn. For more information, visit handprintschildcare.com or call (214) 484-1018