Children are naturally explorative and instinctive. Entertaining activities always attract them more than homework or any other tedious task. However, if a child is taking a longer than expected time to complete an assigned task, or is simply distracted during any activity, he or she is having problems concentrating on one thing at a time. So, how should you increase their attention span?
Your child did not hear something you said, because he had gotten distracted for a moment. Or, your kid is too slow to finish his or her meal. Maybe that your kid leaves a job incomplete to play games or watch TV. Doesn’t seem much of a problem, right?
Such a lack of concentration and short attention span can affect children's academic performance because they might often miss out parts of a lecture or be late to submit classwork and homework. Consequentially, they may have many other problems as kids or grownups throughout their lives if they do not improve their concentration.
It is absolutely necessary to identify a child’s trouble with single-mindedness and to provide all the support needed in order to increase his or her attentiveness.
What can cause inattentiveness?
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be generalized that all children who are lacking concentration are facing the same problem. Inattentiveness in different kids may be caused by different reasons.
Lack of understanding
Lack of concentration can be often positively correlated to a lack of understanding. When a child does not understand a particular thing well, he or she will tend to avoid any work related to that. For instance, for a kid who is bad at maths, doing just about anything else is more interesting than finishing a maths assignment. Chances are they’ll be falling behind even if they try to focus.
It is not uncommon for the kids of the current generation to stay up all night playing mobile games on their parents’ phone. Does your child have a disrupted sleep cycle and odd timings to do homework? Then it is most likely that they have a shortened attention span due to their poor daily routine.
An improper order of everyday activities can heavily impact the functions of a child’s brain, especially concentration level. Lack of sleep hinders children’s ability to pay attention. It is indispensable to build a habit of doing everything at the right hour of the day in your children.
However silly it may sound, but maintaining a diet is all about balancing nutrients in your child’s body. For infants, brain development is dependent on nutrition. Intake of proteins, good fats, vitamins, carbohydrates, water, and minerals- all should be as required. Lack of nutrients may lead to tiredness, attention deficiency and an overall incurious attitude in youngsters.
On the other hand, diet is also important because to some extent it controls the daily activity pattern. High caffeine, e.g., coffee and cola, can lead to sleep deprivation. Thus, it is important to make sure your kid is not skipping meals and also eating the right food.
Absence of practice
If a child is good at doing something, it is obvious they can do it swiftly. In fact, they enjoy doing what they’re great at and tend to pay their full attention to it. Sometimes, they simply find a task hard to concentrate on because they’ve never practiced it.
Their attention span may be decreased when they lack the practice of a specific topic, work or just being in a particular environment. The more they practice something, the better they will get at it, and they will develop enthusiasm.
Shaping your child’s routine in such a way that he or she has the habit of irregularity, and is not used to doing certain tasks, he or she will be drawn to becoming indifferent and distracted.
Especially when it comes to studies, not finding the motivation to do well or to achieve something is often responsible for a distraction. Staring at the window in the middle of reading a comprehension or a book, singing a line or two of a song while saying the table of a number- these can be signs that they are just not inspired to study.
Often when a child is given a task which he or she finds hard, they will have trouble focusing on that task. Even before beginning to work on that, children may get scared thinking it is too tough for them.
Difficult tasks may also refer to something too lengthy for engagement. If you expect your child to concentrate on a work which is going to take 3 hours straight, it is probably just not possible. During school hours as well, longer periods tend to bore children, and they stop paying attention to the lectures and procrastinate.
Stress or trauma
The attention span of a kid can be largely affected by stress. Children who either feel pressure or are mentally disturbed regarding something in their environment may have trouble focusing on studies or anything else.
For example, a child facing problems at home such as frequent fights in the family will tend to be more lost and distracted. Also, if a child is unable to make friends at the school or is bullied, he or she will develop a general dislike for school and thus will not concentrate in school activities.
Being anxious about something such as grades, overall performance or something in the family can also have an impact on a child’s concentration levels. In addition to these, another possible reason is some sort of trauma, such as losing someone or something cherished by them — such loss results in trouble concentrating on anything.
Lack of surveillance
To learn anything, supervision is something of vital importance for children. They need to be observed and guided. However, if you are not paying enough attention when your child is completing a task, chances are they will not develop the habit of putting their concentration into that.
Indifferent attitude from parents diminishes children’s attention span. Kids do not value the assigned tasks for them, and some may also start to feel insignificant if parents are not conscious enough.
If a child fails to organize how he or she will accomplish a task, they will not be able to pay attention and focus even if they try hard. Organization of not only homework and other activities, but also everything in the surrounding is very important to create an environment where one can direct all of his or her concentration on something in particular.
A messy room, untidy workspace or inorganized notebook- can be signs that your child is inadequate in sorting things out. Imagine how much effort does that child have to put in order to do an assignment? Finding all the materials and finally starting the job can take pretty long and be quite tiring to draw the focus into the actual work then.
Handling every task in a disciplined manner benefits a child in so many ways, including its influence on their attention span.
One of the ultimate reasons for a child getting distracted is nothing but his or her greater attraction towards something else. For any parent, it is not unfamiliar that their child either loves sports, or games or watching TV and so on.
It is normal and in fact, necessary for everyone to have a favorite pass time or hobby. Nevertheless, it is troublesome when the hobby becomes a priority. This comes as a tremendous responsibility for parents as for children it is a major diversion from assignments or other work.
Kids end up thinking about how they will pass the current level on their favorite game, or what is the current situation in their favorite series, or maybe Ironman, Batman, and Superman- in the middle of carrying out an assignment.
Nonetheless, if your kid is having constant disruptions, persistent trouble in concentrating on studies, and poor grades, it could be time to consider and find out if your child has any sort of learning difficulties such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Dyslexia or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Such conditions come with a high chance of weakening a kid’s attention span. In fact, in many cases, kids are entirely unable to pay attention to anything at all.
Expecting to improve your child’s concentration can only be turned into reality if you consider all his or her shortcomings and reasons of distraction to take necessary steps and to overcome the challenges.
Ways to increase attention span and concentration
When a child is unwilling to pay attention, it can get pretty hard to direct his or her concentration. Here are some strategies and tips to make children more attentive, so that parents do not have to invest all their energy in getting children back to the focus when they are trying to complete a task.
Motivate and Encourage children
Kids need direction and structure to guide them so that they can achieve what they deserve. Parents can inspire children so that they develop determination and resolution to focus and work hard. You can motivate your child in different ways, depending on his or her interests.
Setting goals are one of the primary steps. If you set certain goals, that is going to give children just the right amount of push to fulfill a task without feeling pressurized.
Rewarding children can also work wonders when it comes to building enthusiasm in youngsters. However, instead of bribing your kids, reward them with something meaningful — for instance, a day out with the family or some fun activities at home.
Children are good at imitating; thus, they pick up expressions, habits, and life skills from the people they spend time with. The behavior of parents’ and the example they lead can play a great role in improving a child’s attention span.
Ensure minimal distractions
Make sure your child is not spending more time watching TV, movies, cartoons, playing games in mobile or PlayStation than he or she should. Once they are addicted to any of it, they will always get distracted thinking about these even while doing other work.
More importantly, when your child is trying to do something, like homework or painting or any other task, you should keep the distractions as little as possible. For instance, do not leave the TV on when your child is trying to focus. It is definitely going to make them want to see what is going on on the TV or simply the sound can break their concentration. Similarly, do not talk loudly or play music, etc. Create an environment which promotes mindfulness.
Minimizing distractions also include keeping all the necessary materials at hand so that your child does not need to get up to get anything. Also, make a list of the little things that tend to distract your kid.
Set up a timetable
Balance is necessary. Build a timetable for children so that they can manage time between their assignments, hobbies, interests, etc. In that way, the will not be deprived of spending their time doing what they like. On the other hand, they will also have allocated time to work on their tasks. Chances of distraction are less as they will know they have a fixed time for all the activities. So, they can focus on one at a time.
Moreover, setting up a timetable also ensures a child is getting enough sleep in the night. As lack of sleep is one of the main causes of having a shorter attention span, this can largely benefit children. When a child is disciplined and maintains a proper lifestyle, concentrating on a particular thing becomes much easier for him or her.
One task at a time
Multitasking may be important at some point of one's life. However, multitasking from a very young age may be one of the reasons that your child is unable to concentrate on any given task solely. After all, it can get pretty confusing for a kid to decide what to focus on when they have more than one missions to deal with.
Do not overwhelm children with a string of tasks. This causes them to struggle in organizing how they can complete all of it. Also, it may be responsible for creating anxiety in your child besides the problem in concentrating.
Breaks are important
You cannot expect a child to do the same work for long hours and not get bored. Make your child’s study times shorter. Even if there are a lot of tasks piled up, a break is still necessary between studying or working on something.
Taking small intervals while accomplishing a lengthy task works to refresh the mind. So that a kid can play games or do something they like to in the meantime. This helps to focus again on the task rather than being distracted thinking about what else could they be doing. It can work wonders in widening the attention span of children.
Although giving your children the break is essential, the organization of these breaks should be proper. For example, if your child is taking a break in between doing math assignment, he or she can be lost and get confused after getting back. They might even have to start reading the assignment from the beginning again to recall where they had paused.
Same goes for the length of the breaks. If a task is paused for too long, it is most likely that kids will not remember how far they were into the task previously.
Play focus games
Playing is the primary activity from which children learn. Incorporating their lessons or life skills to be acquired in a fun activity is always going to make it easier for them. There are some games that require children to focus and help expand their attention span in general.
Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, card games can actually develop a better attentiveness in kids towards words, numbers, and pictures. Finding hidden objects, or picture puzzles where they have to look for certain things aid in increasing concentration.
Simple games like red light – green light, freeze, Simon says, go bananas also help children practice self-regulation skills, including concentration.
A creative learning environment
Not too surprisingly, the same child who struggles to read a textbook for 20 minutes will have no problem being engaged for 30 minutes playing a game they enjoy. Then why not make learning more appealing to them?
In the classrooms, instead of simply asking to solve a math problem, teachers can make it a competitive math quiz where students will be divided into groups and the winning team gets a reward. This excites the children.
At home, a parent can make tasks more challenging and fun for the kids. For instance, incorporating study material into treasure hunts, teaching fractions through baking cookies, etc.
Split a task into sections
A task may often seem very difficult to accomplish, whereas if the same task is broken down into sections, it is much easier for the kids to complete it. This not minimizes the work pressure on them but also allows them to have the time to analyze and be creative about the task.
Dividing a single larger task into smaller chunks can utilize any time of the day without having the child to commit to a job for a long period. One section can be done in the morning, one in the afternoon and one before bed — quite a simple way to improve your kids' attention span and to also to not get them bored.
A parent must understand that different children learn at different rates. Attention span also varies from child to child. Before expecting your child to do any task, see if the task is too hard for him or her. If the task seems hard enough to cause your child trouble to focus on it, then you may modify the task to make it easier for them.
If the task is too complicated, guide your child to focus on any one component at a time. For example, if they have to draw a map and also remember the names of the places, ask them to focus and memorize only the names of the places. Once they are confident about knowing the names, only then let them learn the map. Even though it may take longer, it is effective in making your child attentive.
Ensure a healthy diet and exercise
Make sure your child takes enough protein-rich foods such as almonds, eggs, lean meat, etc. Green fruits, vegetables, and spinach, etc. are also very important to establish a good attention span in your little one.
On the other hand, cut off junk food and caffeine as much as possible.
Physical activity is also crucial to secure proper brain activity. A child's mind is also like a muscle; physical exercise does ensure not only control over the body but also the mind. When a kid has a fit body and mind, he or she will tend to pay better attention and concentration.
A power nap for 20 minutes or so after school or any tiring activity can boost the energy of children, and help them focus more.
Know your child
As mentioned before, all children learn in different ways. You must understand the needs of your child before you can take the necessary steps to help increase their attention span.
Some kids process information better when they can visualize it, or have practical knowledge about it. They learn what they see. For these children, doodling, drawing concepts of what they are learning can help to improve focus and understanding. Making flash cards can also help. Also, they will concentrate more if they're given the demonstration of a learning material practically. Watching YouTube videos can be an option.
Some kids are better at grasping what they hear. These children will concentrate better if you use methods that involve hearing activities. Ask these children to read out loud, use dictation to help them memorize spellings.
Children can often have some sort of trigger. It can be very unusual, such as some people may actually find it easier to handle a task while listening to music. Some may want their room to be in a particular ambiance to concentrate on studies. Get to know what works for your child.
Besides, be aware of your kid’s likes and dislikes. This information comes very handy in fixing your child’s timetable, organizing tasks, giving them the breaks, as well as in building up a reward system.
Appreciate and Embrace
If children feel that what they are doing is not appreciated by anyone, they may find that task insignificant. This leads them to lose interest, and stop concentrating. Therefore, appreciate your child for even the little things they do. A little drawing, or completing a math problem on their own, or finishing homework- acknowledging these little things have a positive effect on your child’s attention span.
Kids like to get compliments. When they get compliments, they enthusiastically focus on that task more and more in order to be cherished.
In addition to that, embrace their flaws. Do not be harsh on them for not being able to concentrate. In fact, allow for distractions sometimes. Being too strict is not going to help them.
Children are naturally energetic. Sitting and doing homework for hours is definitely holding them back from venting out the energy- which is not a pleasant feeling. Letting a kid run or skate around the house for some time in the middle of lessons is not going to cause any harm. In actuality, it can even help them focus better on the next task.
Don’t nag or pressurize
Parents commonly tend to nag asking their kids to study or focus. However, this generally has an adverse effect on children’s attention span.
Nagging causes children to become uninterested. They do not like to be forced to do something. Instead of repeatedly asking them to do something, it is better to keep them motivated so that they can sort things out on their own.
School anxiety and pressure created by parents can lead to a lot of frustration in little children. Instead of actually concentrating more, they stress out and get distracted more. Pressurizing children to pay attention to something must be avoided.
Concentration is not an inherited quality. It is a skill that can be molded into children by taking the right measures based on their personality, interests, and the trouble they are dealing with.
Dealing with Learning Difficulties
If your child has a condition like dyslexia, ADD, or ADHD, it is not going to be easy to make them concentrate on learning or other activities. To deal with these conditions and still increase your child’s attention span, a set of rules must be followed.
An affirmative perspective:
It is not easy to accept that something about your child is not quite normal. Nevertheless, if your children see this reflected in your attitude, they will never be able to develop strong self-esteem or be confident in themselves. In fact, they may feel very low and be unwilling to do any task given to them. Thus, always maintain a positive outlook. There is nothing wrong with your child. With some extra care from the parents, they can be whatever they want!
Know the difference between training and punishing:
Children with learning disabilities are very sensitive. It is okay to make them learn discipline. However, when they cannot reach an expectation of yours, do not punish them. Making them realize they did something wrong is necessary, but not by yelling or threatening. Instead, you should deal it with a more friendly discussion.
Your child will follow your lead. Make sure you influence them in a positive way. Inspire them to achieve their goals.
Establish eye contact:
Children with ADD or ADHD often feel uncomfortable under any To create an environment where they can focus, be sure you are making eye contact with them. Let them have your care and support expressed.
Modify the tasks:
Know your child’s limitations and organize tasks in a way that does not let them feel their shortcomings. Give them easier tasks, break down the task into smaller than usual chunks.
Step by step:
Increase children’s attention span by giving them directions step by step. First, only let them perform a one-step activity. Once they nail it, make it a two-step activity. They will learn to focus, and the span will improve slowly.
We have seen suffering from boredom more in children with ADHD. Thus, let them take breaks more frequently.
Talk to their teachers:
It is very important to be aware of your child’s activity at school. Always keep in contact with their teachers to ensure they are in the right environment and not struggling to cope up with school. Also find out about specific troubles they face in learning from the teacher, as they can know it from their class activities.
Therapists and developmental specialists can help tailor learning plans and goals to improve your child’s concentration. The therapists also have a better idea about the patterns of the difficulty children face. So, they can suggest a solution for every situation in a professional way.
Don’t underestimate or overestimate medication:
If your child’s concentration requires prescribed medicines, make sure you maintain the right dose. Do not think medication can be harmful or think that taking more medicines can improve the condition.
Other than following these rules, maintain all the criteria mentioned to increase attention span and concentration among kids.
Exercises to improve concentration
Regular small focusing exercises can help children improve their concentration.
- Counting backward from 100-1. Other exercises related to numbers can also be given to children, for instance counting words in a paragraph. These exercises help children to draw their focus down to one thing at a time.
- Keep an object in a room, allow your child to enter the room and observe the object only for a limited time. After that, ask them questions about the object. This can be a very exciting game for children, also developing the quality in them to focus.
- Try storytelling your children, but with a twist. Tell them you are going to ask them questions after telling them stories. The kids will learn to concentrate on what they hear.
- Instruct your children to draw something from the surrounding — for example, his or her study table. This will require them to engage themselves in focusing on a particular area for a long time.
- From a set of noises, ask your child to identify any specific noise. This requires them to direct their entire focus.
- Mannequin challenge! Ask your child to hold a position for a long time. This may sound vague, but in fact, it requires quite a lot of attention. You can also make use of similar things like staring competition.
These are a few warm-up exercises which can actually improve to what extent a child can concentrate. If a child can concentrate well, his or her attention span will be better too.
Starting from a good performance in the classroom to proper social development, a longer attention span is vital for a child’s development. Only getting good grades is not the goal, listening to teacher’s lectures at school also affects how much the child will take from the lesson to utilize in the long run of life.
Concentration and self-control are essential life skills that stay with the kids forever. To avoid frustration, to maintain social, academic, and family life, to ensure a good career in the future, it is a must that children know how to keep their focus on something.
It is the responsibility of parents to guide their children in the right direction. Apart from various activities at school, only good parenting can establish attentiveness in kids. Using the tips mentioned here, you can fight attention problems in your child as well as increase the concentration level.