5 Ways to Increase Focus in Children

I have parents approach me asking how to keep their child focused when learning something new or doing school work. This is something that we all face from time to time as parents.

Children can lose their focus for a number of reasons including…

  • they are not interested in the task
  • they are distracted
  • the task is too hard for them
  • they would rather be doing something else

Below are some tips that have helped in our household. Please share your tips in the comments below.

Breaking Up the Tasks

Our brains start to lose optimal focus after 25 minutes. Therefore in order to have optimal concentration, try to break tasks into 25 minutes of focused blocks of time. This is also called the Pomodoro Technique and will help your child focus on the task at hand. After 25 minutes has ended, have your child take a break. After the break, they can come back to the task for another 25 minutes.

Create More Beginnings and Endings

When reading a book, we tend to remember the beginning and ending for longer periods of time. Also, when we watch movies, it seems like the start and end of the story sticks in our brain. The proper terms for these occurrences are the primacy and recency effect. Primacy Effect is when you remember things at the beginning of the list because it happened first. The Recency Effect is when you remember the end of the list or an occurrence.

Remember we said the brain starts to lose optimal focus after 25 minutes. When you combine your knowledge of the Pomodoro Technique, Primacy, and Recency Effects, it makes sense to create more beginnings and endings. You may accomplish this by taking more breaks. Your child will remember more because there are more “firsts and lasts” bits of information that will stick in their brain.

Taking Responsibility

Many of us want to put ALL the blame on our children for NOT having better focus when it comes to school or learning something new. However, I think we have to look at our role in the matter as well.

For example, I wanted my son to have better focus in the morning while getting dressed for school. We were always rushing to get ready for school. The problem was I often got out of bed late causing him to rush. He is the type of child that gets the tasks done but likes to takes his time to do it.

Once I started getting up earlier in the morning, he seems to have more focus.

For the days when he needs to move a little faster, I created some games/activities to make our morning routine efficient and effective.

As far as studying, it is effective to make the information more relevant to your child and break it up into smaller tasks. We will talk about this in the next point.

Shaping

Sometimes children find a task so daunting that it is difficult for them to sit for 25 minutes. This is where Shaping can help save the day. Shaping is a technique many counselors use to teach kids new behaviors. It allows you to build a desired behavior in children using small steps. Once the child has mastered a step then you move to the next one. 

If it is difficult for your child to focus for 10 minutes, have them try five minutes. If they are successful next time, add one or two minutes to the next session. Keep doing this until you have reached the desired 25 minutes. Also, give your child small rewards for completing a task. It will help keep them motivated.

Have Children Take Charge of Their Learning

I remember being in school thinking to myself, “Why do I have to learn this?” Some of the information we learned as children have never been used in our adult lives. However, learning something new strengthens your brain and puts you in better mental shape to be creative and work on your passion. When your child does not see the point in what they are learning, request that they be creative and make it relevant by using the Chain Linking technique. Chain linking is a memory technique that allows your child to use their imagination and creativity to link facts to pictures and stories.

Chain linking is a great way for your child to take charge of their learning because they are creating the factual links to pictures and stories. When they create ways to remember information, they have more of connection to it. It also helps them learn information faster in a fun way.

Bonus Tip:

When your child tells you a task is too hard, talk to them about the Power of Mistakes and its importance in learning.

I hope you find this helpful!

Happy Learning!

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Make Learning/Studying Fun for Kids with this Memory Technique

On YouTube one day and I came across a man named Jim Kwik who is a memory and learning coach. I watched a 22-minute interview of him sharing 10 steps to improve your memory. At the end, the interviewer was able to remember the 10 steps he discussed through the power of associating information with pictures and a story (also called Chain Linking). I was familiar with this technique because I used it to teach my son how letters and numbers were formed and how to write.

Jim uses this technique to remember people’s names, speeches, and lists. He also emphasizes thinking and learning like kids because they are the fastest learners. I truly agree with him.

He encouraged his audience to practice the association story technique with another person. I decided to practice with my four-year-old son. He loved every minute of it and said “This is fun!” Below I will tell you how we did it.

Let’s Get Started!

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  • I gave my son nine colors to remember in order. The colors were…
    • Green
    • Orange
    • Purple
    • Blue
    • White
    • Black
    • Pink
    • Brown
    • Yellow
  • I started by telling my son a story that included the colors.
  • The story went like this…

Mommy and Cory went out to play in the green grass. All of a sudden, they saw a huge orange and beside it was a purple eggplant. Both of these foods together looked like the number ten. Then we looked in the sky and saw a Blue Jay bird flying in the sky. The Blue Jay landed on a large white flower and beside it came a black fly. Then we heard a pink pig running and he happened to be hungry. The pig found and then ate a brown chocolate bar. Afterwards he became thirsty and drank yellow lemonade.

  • After I told my son this story I asked him to tell me the colors in order.
  • I encouraged him to use the story to remember the colors.
  • He was able to name all the colors in order.
  • He also remembered the colors in reverse order by telling the story backwards.
  • We were amazed at his ability.
  • Please note: He is using crayons as a visual for the video; however, he was able to remember the colors without the crayons.

Watch this video of my son remembering the colors…

IMG_1117-1

Watch this video of my son remembering the words backwards.

IMG_1118

This technique will also improve your child’s listening skills and focus.

I encourage you to try this activity while you are in waiting rooms, restaurants or even long road trips. My son and I did it during dinner time and had a great time.

Also, use this game to help your child remember important facts for school. Help your child make up a silly story with the facts as characters or items in the setting. This method works great when your child is learning…

  • The Alphabet
  • Numbers
  • Planets
  • The United States
  • The Presidents of the United States
  • Elements on the Periodic Table
  • Mathematical Sequences
  • Formulas
  • Any facts your child needs to learn

Here are pointers for your story…

  • The sillier the story the better.
  • Ensure to use rich images while telling your story.
  • If your child can’t think of pictures for a certain word then have them use the “Sound Like” method.
    • Instead of saying the state, Alabama, use the phrase “Ala Bams on the A.” This will trigger the mind to think of Alabama.
    • Instead of saying the element (on the periodic table), Actinium, use the phrase Acting Up. This will help trigger the mind to think of Actinium.
    • Make up your own silly words, and it will help you remember facts faster.

Have Fun with this Activity!

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