In today’s fast-paced life we all are losing our attention span and focus as compared to our ancestors. Things are no different for our children. My friends, cousins, acquaintances and I myself complain of shrinking attention span of today’s school going children. Let’s dig into the phenomenon of the attention span of our children and try to find some solutions to improve the situation.
Average Attention Span of a Child
The attention span of a child is age dependent. According to parents.com, you can calculate your child’s average attention span, in minutes, by multiplying your child’s age with four. That is: For a 4 year’s old child average attention span would be around sixteen minutes.
Other important factors which affect the attention span of your child are:
- The difficulty level of the task.
- The interest of the child in the task.
If the task is a very difficult one, the child will be fed up sooner than later. Similarly, if the child doesn’t find the task interesting the attention span is bound to decrease.
Tips for Improving Attention Span and Focus
Through trial and error and some research, I have found out that the following 17 tips are very helpful in increasing attention span of your school going children.
Make Sure Basic Needs of The Child are Met
For a healthy attention span and focus make sure that the following needs of your child are met.
- Child is well fed
- Child is well slept
- Child is mentally and emotionally relaxed
The aforementioned requirements might look very ordinary but they have the potential of minimizing the attention span even for adults.
The first step in our journey would be to ensure that your child is well fed and well slept. Secondly, the mental and emotional condition of your child is very important. If there is something which is bothering your child, however small it may be, you cannot expect your child to function to his/her full potential.
For children, their home and their school are the world to them. Problems which might seem very trivial to parents might be very huge for children. It’s the duty of the parents to ensure that their child is mentally and emotionally at ease.
Give your Child Some Down Time
If you will rush to homework too soon after school the attention span and focus of the child will not be up to the mark. Consequently, the quality of the child’s work will suffer.
Whenever your child comes back from school make sure that you are not burdening him/her with study related activities too soon. Always give your child ample time to relax and wind down.
Give Your Child Some Exclusive One to One Time
Kids needs one to one time with their parents irrespective of their age. Spare some one to one time for each one of your children. In this time listen what your child has to say. Have a healthy conversation.
This exclusive session will give you an insight in the child’s world. This will not only help you to know about their activities of the day but also about their problems, insecurities and desires. Based on these insights you can plan to help and guide your child.
Talk to your child as you would talk to an adult. Pay full attention and give due importance to what the child is saying. The things your child is telling you might seem very childish and unnecessary but always curb the urge to give negative comments. Give importance to your child’s thoughts and feelings and it will keep the window of communication open for years to come. The hard work you will put in today will benefit your relationship today and beyond the teenage years of your child when most children shut out their parents from their lives.
Make and Follow Healthy Routines
We all know that following routines is very fruitful. Healthy routines are the basis of healthy habits and healthy habits form successful and happy lives. Make healthy routines for your children and follow them with consistency. After a little practice, this will put your child in such mental state where he/she knows what to expect and then easily does activities as per the routine.
For example: If you have a routine to have lunch after school then some down time and then homework, it will very quickly become a habit of the child and he/she will go through the routine without prompting.
Allow Screen Time For Entertainment Purposes after Completing Important Tasks
In your routine keep the element of entertainment time after the important tasks. This will give children something to look up to when they are busy in their homework or household chores.
My daughter is usually not interested in her Quran class and always tries to skip it somehow. From the day I assigned it the time before she watches TV, she herself approaches me to be done with that class so that she is free to watch cartoons. I have observed that during that time her efficiency is also very high as she is trying to impress me with her performance.
Use Special Rewards
While working with my daughter I have realized that some sort of reward boosts her attention span and focus. I tell her if she will pay attention then I will surprise her with something special. A chocolate or a candy or few extra minutes of screen time are enough to make her fully focus.
Rewards work very well for motivating your child to pay attention and concentrate. Reward can be something the child likes. I personally recommend using such rewards if interest level of your child is low for a specific task. If you use such rewards for each and every task then children make it a habit to focus only when they are rewarded.
Find Out Your Child’s Preferred Learning Method
Naturally, every child has a preferred method of learning. There are three primary methods of learning
Those children who are visual learners are most productive when they are taught visually. Such children focus better when they are stimulated with visuals. You can use flash cards, pictures, videos and other visuals to show a certain concept. As the visual learning skills in these children are very sharp their attention span and focus will be maximum and they can easily retain the info.
The preferred method of learning for some children is auditory. These children learn best by listening. Reading aloud or listening to somebody else read and explain will benefit these children the most.
Children whose preferred mode of learning is kinesthetic learn the most through feeling and experiencing something. If they can feel, touch and see something their learning skills are maximized. You can use models, and practical demos to teach them most effectively.
Once you know the preferred learning method for your child you can maximize your child’s potential by teaching him/her in that method. The child will be more responsive and focused in his/her preferred methods of learning.
Outside play can help a lot in maximizing your child’s attention span. It is research proven that exercise enhances attention span and focus. Make sure that your child has ample physical activity to help his/her mind to fully pay attention.
Reduce Screen Time
It is research proven and I have personally experienced it with myself and my children that too much screen time reduces our attention span. It is the duty of the parents to ensure that their child are not overly exposed to screens.
You can check recommended guidelines for screen time for children by American Academy of Pediatrics here.
Focus on One Task at a Time
If you ask your children to do multiple tasks at once it may overwhelm them. Give them only one task at a time. Introduce the next one when the first one is completed.
Break Down Bigger Tasks into Smaller Chunks
Similar to multiple tasks one big task might overwhelm the child. Breakdown a bigger and difficult task into smaller and easily doable ones. Instead of focusing on a full article, focus on a paragraph then the next paragraph and then the next and so on.
Similarly while doing puzzles or house hold chores give smaller tasks to children and when they are done with that then ask them to move on to the next.
Make it a step by step process and be available at each step to help and guide.
Keep the Environment of The House Conducive For Work
If one child is asked to do homework, and all the other members of the house are watching TV or enjoying something else, it will be difficult for the child to curb the urge to join others and will not be able to fully focus at the task at hand. Similarly, if the children are asked to do homework and parents start to fight with each other then you cannot expect your children to give full attention to their work.
Keep the environment of the house healthy and conducive for productive work. Ensure that there are no distractions around the house which are not letting your child to fully focus and pay attention.
Use Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and imagining something interesting and pleasant also helps in improving your attention span and focus.
Whenever your children are finding it difficult to focus ask them to take 5-10 deep breaths and imagine something they like. This will help in shedding some of the clutter in their minds and bring the focus back on the task at hand.
Use Short Breaks
Similar to relaxation techniques using short breaks also help in refocussing your child’s attention to the task at hand.
Whenever your child is not paying attention, ask them to get a five minute break to do something else like jumping, running, walking or simply eating something and then start again. You will see instant increase in their attention span.
Plan a Discussion with Your Child’s Teacher
If your child is unable to pay attention in a particular subject or only study related stuff then you must schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher. At times a child doesn’t like a particular teacher and that emotion translates in their studies.
Have a discussion with the teachers of your child and try to find the root cause of the issue and then find a possible solution.
Be Patient & Praise Your Child’s Effort
When you start working on your child’s attention span and focus do not expect overnight results. It will take some time to fully show it benefits but you will definitely notice improvements every now and then. Be prepared to be patient with the child and praise the effort child is putting in to improve.
Children live for the praise and approval of their parents. Catch them doing good and they will do more of it.
Consider Getting Professional Help
If you have tried all the aforementioned techniques for some time to no avail or your gut feeling is telling you that there might be some serious attention deficit in your child then I strongly recommend getting professional help. Talk to a pediatrician or psychologist and proceed according to their advice.
A healthy attention span is important in every step and every stage of your child’s life. In today’s world of overwhelming distractions, your school going child might find some difficulty in harnessing the power to focus. A thorough and consistent plan helps a lot in overcoming attention deficit and lack of focus.
Small changes in your routines and your approach towards guiding your children through the process will help you in improving the attention span of your school going children.
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