Kids sometimes have trouble focusing just because they are kids. It’s hard to pay attention when other students are laughing during class. During chores, friends text you. It’s common for kids to have difficulty concentrating from time to time due to all the distractions.
The problem of being unable to focus can last a long time or be limited to a short period of time. In either case, it makes learning difficult. Its impact extends to everyday life as well. When the task they’re given isn’t fun, they get bored and quickly shift their attention to something more interesting — some of us adults may experience the same struggle to pay attention when the task or subject is boring.
The circumstances that make it hard to concentrate can’t always be changed. The good news is that there are ways to help your child cut through distractions and accomplish their goals. The ability to concentrate is like a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly to maintain its strength. All kids can improve their own ability to focus and sustain their attention by learning strategies and engaging in practices that help.
Signs Of Low Concentration In Children
These signs may indicate your child is having difficulty focusing and paying attention:
- Does not sit in one place and gets distracted easily
- Loses things often and cannot stay organized
- Has difficulty in learning and remembering
- Difficulty following instructions
- Cannot focus on homework
- Appears to be constantly daydreaming
- Poor handwriting compared to kids of the same age
- Sometimes aggressive or moody
- Lack of interest
- Inability to sit still and maintain a train of thought
- Inability to keep things organised
Causes For Lack Of Concentration In Kids
- Insufficient sleep. It is recommended for kids to sleep eight to ten hours a night. Sleep deprivation contributes to difficulty concentrating. One of the effective ways to manage attention difficulties is to pay attention to sleep patterns and the causes of sleep disruption.
- Stress from the family. Symptoms of inattention and distractibility can be exacerbated by undue pressure on children to perform well in their studies or hobbies and frequent arguments between their parents. Your child will appreciate it if you ease their pressure to perform well, and avoid arguments in front of them.
- Concentration is significantly affected by poor nutrition. Insufficient nutrition and a high-sugar and fatty diet can negatively affect a child’s concentration. Avoid caffeine and energy drinks, and junk food.
Relaxation, a balanced diet, and sleep can address the problem to an extent.
How To Improve Concentration In Children
Set aside homework time and space. Some children have a hard time tuning out the noise. Provide your child with the right environment so that they can concentrate. For example, do homework at a designated desk or table in a quiet room with the TV off, the phone in another room, and the laptop shut unless it’s needed to complete a homework assignment. Be a good role model for your children. While your child is studying, have a ‘quiet time’ when you read a book or do an activity. This can motivate them to do a better job.
Reduce screen time.
Give your child traditional, physical games instead of electronic ones. Get them things that will stimulate their creativity and their ability to think while having fun. Set a daily time when your child can watch TV or surf the internet. This will keep screen time under control. Parental monitoring programs can automatically shut down Internet access after a set amount of use. Your child will learn from you, so model watching less television and using mobile devices less in front of them.
The goals need to be attainable. Set up a timetable for all their activities, such as playtime, study time, and special interests. As motivation, material rewards can be carefully used when they complete specific tasks within a week or month.
Break bigger tasks into smaller ones.
Kids sometimes find it overwhelming to complete a task all at once. Divvying up time-consuming or difficult tasks into smaller ones makes it easier for them. If your child is learning to tie her shoes, make the first goal to master the initial knot, then move on to making two loops with the strings until they know exactly how to do that, and so forth. In case they are struggling to read a chapter, ask them to read it in small sections or pages.
Set a timer.
Another strategy for building concentration is to use a timer to help kids organize themselves. 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 break. You can increase the amount of time little by little as your child gets better at focusing.
Appreciate and reward them.
Motivation is essential when children are performing a task. It is important for them to feel accomplished once they have completed a task. As a result, children remain motivated and focused on improving their performance. Praise your child when they improve and do things better.
Build in planned breaks.
Kids need to get up, move around, and do something different after spending some time concentrating. They will benefit from taking some time to rest and recharge, especially during after-school homework time. Younger children can take a snack or play break.
Practice being aware of what is happening in the moment.
Children can be distracted by “internal stimuli,” such as physical sensations or entertaining memories. While a child’s imagination is a wonderful thing, we also want them to be able to clear away distractions and build the ability to concentrate. You can play “I spy with my little eye…” and take turns making observations of various objects in the room, listen closely to the lyrics of a song together, or do some stretching and pay attention to how it feels in the body.
Practice simple breathing exercises.
An adequate amount of oxygen helps the brain function properly. Therefore, make your kid do some simple breathing exercises. Practice the exercises together. Ask your kid to lie on their back and place a toy on the tummy. Now, ask them to breathe in deeply and raise the toy as high as they can without touching it. If the toy moves high, it means their lungs are filled with air.
Take the help of school counsellors.
Seek help from school counsellors. Check if your child’s school counsellor and teachers to get more insight into their behaviour. Consider strategies they can help reinforce during class, that complements what you do at home.
Get a professional evaluation.
Book an appointment with a physician or therapist to evaluate the problem. Talking with a clinician can help you make sense of your child’s difficulties with attention and point you in the direction of solutions.
Keep them physically active.
Research shows that physical activities, such as running, cycling, and playing football, are not only good for their body but also for their mind. It helps children focus better.
Keep an open mind when it comes to what works. For some people, total silence is necessary to focus. Others thrive with a bit of white noise or music. That’s why it’s important to observe your child and talk to them to see what works best for them. Give their ideas a try and see how it goes.
Even when using these strategies, your child might still get distracted. That’s why they also need techniques to get back on task once they’ve drifted. Come up with a signal for when your child’s mind starts to wander. It might be putting a hand on your child’s shoulder or saying a specific word. Tell your child’s teacher you’re trying these strategies at home.
And remember to talk about your child’s strengths, not just challenges. Celebrate focus wins, big and small. When kids understand what they’re good at, it builds confidence and helps them stay motivated when things get tough.
Hope Channel Singapore’s articles are written after analyzing research works by expert authors and institutions. Among our references are resources established by authorities in their fields.
- Stephen P. Becker et al.; (2014); The Child Concentration Inventory (CCI): Initial Validation of a Child Self-Report Measure of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269114068_The_Child_Concentration_Inventory_CCI_Initial_Validation_of_a_Child_Self-Report_Measure_of_Sluggish_Cognitive_Tempo
- How Phones Ruin Concentration. https://childmind.org/article/kids-shouldnt-use-phones-during-homework/
- Exercise in schools can help children pay attention in the classroom. https://www.abdn.ac.uk/news/3600/
- Linda J Harrison et al.; (2004); Sahaja Yoga Meditation as a Family Treatment Programme for Children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1359104504046155
- Patrick Ip et al.; (2017); Impact of nutritional supplements on cognitive development of children in developing countries: A meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5587553/
- Brain fog. https://sanfrancisconeuropsychology.org/blog/brain-fog/