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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Salt and Fresh Water Experiment

It is warm outside and kids are going to the beach (where there is salt water) and the pool. Some kids may notice that they float better in salt water than in fresh water. After doing this experiment, your child will know why this occurs. Explore the difference in density between salt water and fresh water with this easy experiment. 

Let’s Get Started!

Materials:

  • 2 Glasses of Water
  • Salt
  • Spoon
  • Food Coloring
  • Ice
Materials for Salt and Fresh Water Experiment

Method:

  • Place a few ice cubes into one glass of water
Placing ice in fresh water
  • Add a few drops of food coloring into the ice water.
Adding green food coloring into the ice fresh water.
Observing how the green food coloring disperses into the fresh water.
  • Add several tablespoons of salt to the other glass of water and stir so it dissolves.
  • Add some ice cubes to the salt water glass.
Pouring salt into the other glass of fresh water
  • Add food coloring to the salt water and see what happens.
Adding food coloring to the salt water
The salt is causing the food coloring to float.
  • Compare the food coloring in the fresh and salt water.
Observe the difference.

Why it Works:

  • Saltwater is denser than fresh water because the sodium chloride is dissolved in it.
  • Specific amounts of salt water is heavier than the same volume of freshwater.
  • When salt is dissolved in water, like at the ocean, the salt adds to the mass of the water.
  • The salt makes the water denser than it would be without the salt.
  • When salt is dissolved in water, as it is in ocean water, it adds to the mass of the water and makes the water denser than it would be without salt. Because objects float better on a dense surface, they float better on salt water than in fresh water.

Have fun with this experiment!

Don’t forget to check our two books, Teach your Toddler to Read Through Play and Fun and Easy Ways to Teach your Toddler to Write.

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4 Games/Activities that Teach Kids Manners

Many parents are successful at teaching their children manners through modeling the behavior or reminding kids to use them. This post brings a fun, hands-on approach to teaching manners. The games/activities below can be a supplement to what you are already teaching your children at home. These are great group activities to play with young kids. I hope you find these helpful!

Let’s get started!



Please and Thank You Game

The following game will teach your child when to say Please and Thank you.

Materials Needed:

  • 3 Stuffed Animals or 3 Action Figures
  • Tape
  • Paper
  • Scissors

  1. Explain to your child that Please should be used with any request such as…
    • When your child wants a drink
    • They should say “May I PLEASE have a drink?”
    • If the child is very young then they can say “Drink, please.”
  2. Explain to your child that Thank you is used when they receive an item, favor, or an act of kindness.
    • For example, children should use it when someone gives them a drink, a gift, or when they have visited someone’s home.
  3. Start the activity by having your child gather their stuffed animals and action figures.
  4. Cut 3 rectangles out of the paper.
  5. Write the word, Doing, on one rectangle and then tape it on the front of one stuffed animal or action figure.
    • The Doing toy’s job is to role play the scenarios with your child.
  6. Write the word, Thank you, on one rectangle and then tape it on the front of one stuffed animal or action figure.
    • The Thank you toy’s job is to say Thank you in the scenario if needed.
  7. Write the word, Please, on one rectangle and then tape it on the front of one stuffed animal or action figure.
    • The Please toy’s job is to say Please in the scenario if needed.
  8. Create four scenarios where the child will have to role play and identify when to use Thank you or Please like the examples below…
    • The Doing Toy just shared his snack with your child. (Answer – say Thank you)
    • The Doing Toy would like a banana. What should the toy say? (Answer – May I please have a banana?) (Another option is Banana please).
    • Your child spilled the Legos on the floor and the Doing Toy helped your child clean up. (Answer – say Thank you)
    • The Doing toy wants to play at the playground. What should the toy say? (Answer – Can you take me to the playground, please?)
  9. Role play the scenarios above (or scenarios you have created) one at a time with the toys and your child.
  10. Below is an example of how the role play should be played. Let use the first scenario as an example..
    • The child and Doing toy should role play the following scenario – The Doing Toy just shared his snack with your child.
    • Now the child should decide if the Thank you toy or Please toy is needed.
    • In this scenario, the child should get the Thank you toy to say Thank you to the Doing toy.
    • If your child is confused about whether to use the Thank you toy or Please toy help them to determine the correct answer.
  11. Repeat steps 9-10 with the scenarios given in number 8. You may also create your own scenarios.
The Manner Animals

Super V!

This activity gives kids a reminder to cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze.

Material Needed:

  • The child’s arm
  1. Explain to your child that it is important to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze to prevent the spread of germs.
  2. Germs can cause others to get sick.
  3. The best way to stop the spread of germs is to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.
  4. If you don’t have time to get a tissue, then use SUPER V!!!
  5. SUPER V is when you cough and sneeze into the inner crease of your elbow.
  6. When do you this, your arm forms the letter V.
  7. Pretend that you are sneezing or coughing and model to your child how to cover their mouth.
    • As you model how to cover your mouth, say SUPER V like it is a superhero!
  8. Have your child practice saying and doing the SUPER V mouth cover position.
  9. Every time your child really coughs or sneeze, say SUPER V!
  10. If your child is not into superheroes then create something else like the PRINCESS SHIELD to help them remember to cover their mouths.
Sick child doing the Super V

Excuse Me Game

This game will teach your child when it is appropriate to say Excuse Me.

Materials Needed:

  • Something that makes a loud noise like a bell, drum, whistle, or kazoo
  • Child’s stuffed animals, action figures, or other toys
  1. Explain to your child that Excuse Me should be used in the following situations
    • To get another person’s attention
    • When you need to get around someone and they are in your pathway.
    • When you have bumped into someone or accidentally stepped on their foot.
    • During an acceptable interruption
      • For example, if mom is talking to someone and the young child needs to go to the bathroom.
    • When you burp or pass gas
  2. After explaining step 1, role play the situations with your child (using yourself and child as the actors for practice).
  3. Next get your child’s toys.
  4. Give your child a loud noise maker of your choice such as a bell, drum, whistle, or kazoo.
  5. Use the child’s toys to role play each scenario in number 1 and scenarios where Excuse Me is not needed such as…
    • You give your child a snack.
    • Your child wants to go outside and play.
  6. After role playing each scenario with the toys, give the child two choices in which to respond…
    • If saying Excuse Me is an appropriate response to the scenario, then the child should use their noise maker and next say Excuse Me.
    • Is Excuse Me is NOT the appropriate response to the scenario, then the child can say NO!
  7. For example, you role play that one action figure burps and your child has a drum.
    • The child should play the drum and then say Excuse Me.
  8. Keep playing the game with various scenarios.

No Interruptions Game

This activity uses the concept of Shaping to teach kids to be patient while parents are talking to others in person or on the phone. Shaping is a technique many counselors use to teach kids new behaviors or skills. It allows you to build a desired behavior in children using small steps. Once the child has mastered a step, then move to the next one. 

Materials:

  • One of the child’s stuffed animal, action figure, or other toy
  • Timer
  • Pretend or toy telephone
  1. Explain to your child that interruption is when they talk while someone else is talking.
  2. Interrupting is considered rude unless it is an acceptable interruption such as…
    • You have to go to the bathroom
    • You or someone is hurt.
  3. Some kids interrupt their parents for attention or they think the conversation topic with the other adult is boring.
  4. Start the No Interruptions Game by getting your child’s toy and the telephone.
  5. Tell your child they can’t talk to you until the timer goes off.
    • If this is a struggle for them, suggest ideas to keep them busy like counting, playing with a toy, or just listening.
  6. Set the timer to 20 seconds.
  7. Pretend you are on the phone while the timer is going.
  8. After the times goes off, tell your child they can talk.
  9. If your child does NOT interrupt you within the 20 second period, then next time increase the time to 30 seconds and so on.
  10. Do this until you get to a desired time like 5 minutes.
  11. If your child talks to you before the timer goes off, then try the activity again with the timer set to a lesser time like 10 seconds and work from there.

I hope you find these activities helpful!

Don’t forget to check our two books, Teach your Toddler to Read Through Play and Fun and Easy Ways to Teach your Toddler to Write.

Happy Learning!

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Magic Kitchen Balloon Science Experiment

Did you know that science experiments can make children better readers? The book, The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick, which is about early childhood learning supports this fact.

In this book she talks about an experiment where some kindergartners in a school district received extensive instructions in reading while the others spent the same amount of time learning science.

The kids that learned science melted ice, observed thermometers in hot and cold places, played with magnets, grew plants and learned about animal life. Books and pictures were available for these children but no formal lessons in reading were held.

The school district learned that by the third grade the “science” children were far ahead of the “reading” children in their reading score. The reason is their vocabulary and thinking skills were much more advanced. They could read on more topics and understand higher levels of material. The playful, hands-on activities the “science” children did taught them analytical and problem solving skills and how to make connections in what they were learning.

This is why I think EXPOSING KIDS TO NEW WORDS AND READING THROUGH PLAY IS A GREAT CONCEPT.

So let’s talk about our exciting science experiment!

Today we will…

Blow Up A Balloon Without Blowing At All!

To incorporate literacy in this experiment, help your children read the Materials, Method, and Why it Works headings in this post. As kids are reading these sections, have them do the action. Children can use the pictures to help them read the words. If your children can read independently allow them to do so.

How to incorporate literacy in this experiment…

  1. Read the Materials and Method sections.
  2. Re-read the Materials section as you get the supplies.
  3. Re-read the Method section as you do the steps.

Let’s get started!

Materials:

  • Vinegar
  • Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Balloon
  • Empty Water Bottle
  • 1 Funnel
  • Spoon
  • Safety goggles (we didn’t have safety goggles so we used sunglasses)

Method:

  • Put on your safety goggles (or sunglasses).
  • Pour some vinegar into the water bottle
    • Vinegar should fill 25% of the water bottle.
  • Pour baking soda into the balloon.
    • Stretch the balloon over the funnel’s neck.
    • Take the teaspoon of baking soda and put it in the funnel.
    • Ensure the baking soda reaches the inside of the balloon.
Balloon stretched over the funnel’s neck.
My son is looking for the teaspoon to measure the baking soda.

The baking soda is in the funnel. It goes down the funnel into the balloon.

  • Stretch the balloon over the water bottle’s neck.
It is hard to see but there is vinegar in the water bottle. The balloon has baking soda in it.
  • Pick up the balloon and empty out the baking soda into the water bottle.
    • AFTER THE BAKING SODA GOES INTO BOTTLE, PLEASE BACK UP IN CASE THE BALLOON POPS.
    • The balloon popped when we did the experiment for the first time.
    • Safety goggles will protect your eyes in case the balloon pops.
  • Stand back and watch the balloon BLOW UP!

Below is a video of my son and I doing the experiment!

Why it works?

  • As the baking soda mixes with the vinegar, it creates bubbles of carbon dioxide gas that escapes into the balloon.
  • This makes the balloon blow up by itself.
  • If the mixture creates a lot of gas, then the balloon will get so big until it pops!

Have fun experimenting!

Resources:

Easy Art Fun Do-It-Yourself Crafts for Beginning Readers by Jill Frankel Hauser

Crafty Science by Jane Bull


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