5 effective tips to help kids focus and concentrate
One of the key life-skills that we set out to inculcate in our daughter as she begins her primary school education journey is the ability to focus and concentrate. This includes being able to focus during lessons and being able to concentrate to complete all the tasks set before her.
Think about it – the ability to focus and concentrate affects an adult’s performance at work too, given how our attention span (according to a Microsoft study) has got reduced to only 8-seconds (shorter than a goldfish’s)!
We all hear about more children suffering from attention deficit and learning disorders associated with it. However, how many of us know that concentration is like a muscle that requires regular exercise to strengthen? Most children are naturally able to concentrate on activities that are fun and enjoyable. It’s the ones that are more ‘boring’, difficult or less enjoyable that really challenge their focus. Regardless whether the information is presented on paper or on screen, a child needs to learn to focus and concentrate to be able to function well in life.
Child development experts suggest that the average child should be able to concentrate on one task for 2-5 minutes multiplied by their age. So an average 8-year old should be able to focus on a given task from 16 and up to 40 minutes. Of course, whether an 8-year old is able to focus 40 minutes or lesser will vary by child and by tasks.
Attention spans also tend to wane as the school day progresses due to heat and tiredness. So what can we parents do to support our child to improve their focus and concentration span?
From our own trial-and-errors, we’ve found 5 methods that seem to work well so far:
1. Get Enough Sleep
Getting sufficient sleep affects our mental alertness and has a direct correlation to our ability to focus and concentrate. Children should stick to a regular sleep routine as having irregular sleep cycles can really affect concentration and physical well-being. But how do we ensure that children get enough sleep?
- Setting bedtime routines, including a strict time to sleep nightly
- Stopping all screen usage at least 30 min before bedtime. This includes the use of TV and mobile phones
- Following pre-bedtime routines consistently for children to relax and wind-down for the day
2. Get Outdoors
Bring the children out for sports, physical activities and fresh air. Children love to move, so bringing them outdoors helps to release their ‘pent-up’ energy. This regulates their natural tendency to fidget. Letting them get some physical activities helps with blood circulation to the brain, thereby improving their ability to focus. Research also suggests that exposure to natural surroundings, including parks, playgrounds and green spaces prove beneficial for children's brain development.
3. Get Involved
Research has shown that children whose parents are actively involved in their lives often fare better at school. At home, parents who engage children in conversations and brainy games (whether in a game of chess, Lego, Sudoku or puzzles) can enthuse their children to do the same.
Being involved in children’s day-to-day learning narrows the parent-child gaps, improves bonding and enhances family communication. Children whose parents are fully involved feel more valued, secure and loved. This triggers the release of endorphins (the happy hormones), which enable them to focus and concentrate better.
4. Get Organised
The moment a child enters primary school, they are bombarded with information, ranging from homework to projects deadlines to teachers’ instructions. This is over and above other sensory information that they get bombard with from everywhere outside the classroom. Children who are overwhelmed can become forgetful and be demotivated because they keep getting reprimanded for their lapses in concentration.
A simple trick is to remind our children to use their school diaries to record and organize their thoughts, ideas, instructions and deadlines. This ‘de-clutter’ their minds so they can focus on the more important, urgent tasks at hand. It's also helpful to teach our children how to make a to-do list to help prioritize and get things done systematically.
5. Get Good Nutrition
Another common fact we know is that food affects moods. While there aren’t any foods that actually make us smarter, the choices we make in our family’s diet can play an important role in optimizing our children’s brain functions.
- Eating a healthy diet including whole grains, fruits and veggies, and lots of protein. We eat brown rice at home and avoid serving foods high in sugar (e.g. ice-creams), esp. before or near bedtime.
- Eating breakfast. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast are better learners. Eating first thing in the morning provides fresh energy throughout the day, and it doesn’t even have to be a big meal. Something as small as a bowl of homemade granola can make kids more energetic and alert.
- Introducing supplements such as BRAND'S® AlphaMynd into our children’s diet (not just during exam time).
Growing kids have unique nutritional needs. BRAND'S® AlphaMynd Essence of Chicken with Vitamin B Complex is an easy-to-drink supplement for children aged two to 12.
Totally fat-free, cholesterol-free, preservatives-free and made from premium quality chicken, adding this to your child’s daily diet will provide essential Vitamin B Complex. Vitamin B complex is actually a group of eight B vitamins which play an essential role in metabolism, nervous system and immunity development. Our bodies do not make Vitamin B Complex so that’s why it’s important kids take in Vitamin B Complex through foods.
I remember my Mum feeding me Brands Essence of Chicken, especially before major exams (like PSLE and ‘O’ levels). Now that I’m a mother myself, I am introducing it earlier to my children, to ensure they get sufficient amounts of Vitamin B Complex for optimum brain power and growth. The ability to focus and concentrate is an essential life skill, which has an impact on what our children can achieve in the future. Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help our kids focus and concentrate better so they can truly enjoy their childhood.
This post is brought to you in collaboration with BRAND'S®.
This article also appears on my blog.