Having trouble getting your child to put their coat, shoes, and backpack on before heading out for the bus? Or is your bedtime routine chaos because you're constantly nagging your little one with reminders to brush their teeth or pick up their toys? While young children aren't expected to be specimens of calm and efficiency, they should certainly be able to get through relatively simple tasks without too much resistance. Below are a few tips to try to help your child better focus.
- Create a low-distraction environment - Houses and classrooms are going to have stuff going on. It's a fact of life. But if you have a child who is having trouble focusing, make an effort to limit extra stimuli as best you can. Are you the type to constantly have loud music or T.V.s playing in the background? It may be background noise for you, but it can be quite a lot of commotion for your child. How about toys and other clutter laying around? These things can make it difficult for your child to concentrate, so put things away and create a serene environment.
- Reduce screen time - Studies have shown that the instant gratification and excessive stimulation that screens provide have an impact on children's attention spans. The things they see on screens outshine the regular stimuli the real world provides so significantly that it's hard for them to engage in other tasks like reading or playing with their imaginations. Experts suggest that children over 5 engage in no more than 2 hours of non-school related screen time per day. (Including a screen-free bedroom). You may get some pushback and exclamations of, "I'm bored!" at first. But power through as best you can. You will gradually notice an increase in attention because they'll be forced to practice focusing on other things for entertainment, like building with Legos or getting lost in drawing a picture.
- Engage in physical activity - Get them to move around. Give them a 10 minute break to run around outside or put some music on and dance. Then see if they're better equipped to focus on the task at hand. Incorporate movement and outdoor time into your routine everyday.
- Create child friendly to-do lists - What routine is your child having trouble focusing on? Is it getting themselves ready for bed? Or cleaning up their room? Creating a simple to-do list that guides them to task completion is great because it reduces the added chaos of your nagging and empowers your child to complete their responsibilities independently. Laminate the list and include checkboxes so that your little one can use a dry erase marker to check completed items off (checking a box with a big marker will be an incentive in itself). Eventually, the entire routine will be like clockwork. For example, a good "Getting Reading for Bed" list would include the following check points: putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, putting toys back in the toybox, and getting their backpack ready for tomorrow.
- Make sure they're getting enough sleep - Studies show that inadequate sleep has a negative impact on children's ability to focus. Make sure your child is getting a full-night's rest so that their brains can function properly the next day. Experts say that 6-year-olds require 9-11 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Practice focusing using concentration-based games - Engage in concentration-based games with your child so they can exercise their focus. Like most things, practice makes perfect! Simon Says, matching cards, and working on puzzles are all great activities that your child will enjoy doing with you without even noticing that they're putting in hard work!