Career & Education

Improving concentration in your young child

Dr Karla
Hylton

Sunday, February 04, 2018

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YOUNGER children are generally super active, exuberant, curious and always running around. This makes it difficult to sit them down and have them focus on a single task such as homework. This can be frustrating, and you may be tempted to give up. But one of the last things to develop in children is their attention span. The younger the child, the less their attention span.

Concentration is the ability to pay attention on one particular thing, excluding all other distractions. Concentration and focus are critical skills that children need to develop in order to do well in school. In order to improve it, one needs to have a plan to ensure productive practice of the skill. Before doing so, let us try to analyse what some of the reasons may be for your child's lack of focus.

Major causes of concentration problems

The task may be too difficult: Sometimes it is helpful to break down a task into smaller, easier efforts. If the assignment seems too large or too difficult, your child may be overwhelmed. Breaking it down makes it easier.

Distractions: This goes without saying. Make sure the TV, radio and other electronic devices are turned off during homework or study time.

Attention-seeking: All children crave attention from their parents. Your child may simply need you to spend 15 minutes doing something entertaining together.

Unhealthy diet: Avoid sugary foods and junk foods which will make your child jittery and unfocused. Caffeinated beverages are also a no-no, as they will make it difficult for your child to fall asleep. A nutritious diet is important for healthy brain development.

Sleep deprivation: Sleeping is critical in a child's daily routine. Children need between eight to 12 hours' sleep every night, depending on their age. Lack of sleep will definitely interfere with their ability to concentrate.

Tips

Divide big tasks into a few smaller ones

Some children may find a big task to be overwhelming and intimidating. This causes resistance to develop. So if your child has 30 words to learn how to spell, it might be better to break up the list into groups of five at a time.

Memory games

Games such as “Memory”, crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles are fun to play but also improve a young child's attention to numbers, words and pictures.

Nutrition

Be mindful of the food and drink your child consumes. Sugary foods and drinks are not advisable, as these tend to make children jittery and unsettled. Ensure that your child eats a nutritious breakfast before school and that other meals are also healthy and well-balanced. Vegetables and fruits boost brain power.

Discover your child's learning style

Many children have a particular preference in the way they learn best. Some prefer to hear the information, others need to see it, while some may need to touch and feel something to understand. Discover how best your child learns and use methods best suited to that learning style to enhance learning and hence focus.

Study area

Prepare a quiet and orderly space for your children to do homework and study. Turn off the television and music and remove electronic devices. This area should be free of all distractions. Remember that children do not have the ability to screen out distractions like adults do.

Routine

Establishing a regular routine is paramount in your child's life. Having rituals will help your children to get into a pattern, and these patterns will help them to understand what is supposed to happen next. This helps them to focus on what they have to do and keeps their minds from wandering. A child should have a regular bedtime, wake-up time, homework/study time, and regular mealtimes.

Breaks

It is difficult for a young child to focus for longer than 20 minutes. I encourage short breaks. Your child should be allowed to move around for five minutes and then get back to work.

Exercise

It is proven that exercise promotes mental skills and significantly improves a child's attention span. Sports, playing, or straightforward exercise for at least 30 minutes per day is recommended.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary-level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, bio chemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com.

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