Contrary to popular belief, the ability to focus doesn’t come naturally and is actually equivalent to a muscle that could use regular exercising. Before you think your child has an underlying issue that needs medicinal attention, consider helping improve their ability to concentrate with some tried and true practical strategies.
The Reality Behind Being Able to Focus
First, I’d like to talk about some aspects related to focus and concentration to keep in mind. For starters, we all know how important it is to be able to focus. Most adults will even agree that the ability to focus isn’t always easy, and the same is certainly true for children.
Although it’s difficult at times, being able to stay focused is a very important skill for children to acquire. From an early age they are taught to focus and it is certainly increased as they reach school age. Throw in extra curricular activities and it raises the concentration bar even more.
Have you noticed your child’s ability to focus one minute, but totally lost the next? The key behind this is our children are able to focus better when it’s on something they enjoy. It’s the things they find boring or less enjoyable that they tend to lose focus on. What’s the remedy to this you ask? While you can’t make every single thing exciting for your child in order to get them to focus, there are a few strategies to consider…
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Strategies to Help Build Your Child’s Concentration Muscles
Help your child focus by doing one thing at a time.
At some point in time, we’ve all bitten into the multitasking apple. We’ve believed that we can do multiple things at once and somehow be super productive. The sad reality is that simply isn’t true and it’s not something we should teach our children to do. Trying to multitask usually becomes overwhelming and exhausting.
Instead of teaching your child to juggle multiple things at once, show them how to do one thing at a time. Give them one task and do not move on until it is fully completed. In hindsight, this is showing them how to maximize their ability to focus and be productive.
Build your child’s ability to concentrate by taking regular breaks.
Concentration levels depend on the age of the child and should always be taken into consideration. If your 5 year old has accomplished an entire lesson, listened to you read a story, and even completed a hands-on activity, that child needs a break!
It may seem counterproductive but the truth of the matter is taking regular breaks allows the brain processing and recalibration time which in return helps with focusing on the next task at hand. Instead of pushing your child to get through a long lesson, break it into chunks with a few three to five minute breaks in between.
Help your child focus with essential oils.
Yes, we’re an oily homeschooling family and it’s worth mentioning as a reliable source for helping your child focus. Plant Therapy has several kid-safe blends that have worked wonders for my family, and many others as well.
The highly popular Hocus Focus blend is known to help support focus and decrease the fidgeting that a lot of children experience. The individual oils that come together to make this powerful blend are:
- Lime steam distilled
- Atlas Cedarwood
- Roman Chamomile
The combination of uplifting, energizing, and soothing oils support an alert yet calm mind. This blend comes highly recommended to use in your homeschool room, applied (diluted with a carrier oil), or simply sniffed before completing an assignment.
Another infamous Plant Therapy kid-safe focus blend is Study Time. The name itself tells you what it’s good for but you should also know that it supports balancing the mood. This is essential if you have a child that can be less than nice when they are having a hard time staying focused. Similar to Hocus Pocus, this particular blend adds Pink Grapefruit.
Set A Timer
I cannot over emphasize enough how beneficial it is to set a timer. When I say “set a timer” I don’t mean- lets stress the child out. This isn’t something to be implemented with the intentions of rushing your child. Nor do you want him or her to think they have to have “xyz” completed before the timer goes off. Using a timer for these purposes will only prove counterproductive.
Rather, use a timer so that it presents a visual goal demonstrating when a lesson will be over. This has proven to be very helpful for any dawdling during lessons. For my oldest, it seemed that she was constantly losing focus and part of the issue was not having an idea of when a lesson would be over. It was a constant struggle for the both of us until one day the lightbulb went on and I thought maybe a timer would help.
I purchased sand timers which I prefer over the timer on my phone. Since I didn’t want to stress my child out, the alarming affects of a ringing timer didn’t seem appealing. However, the soundless sandy grains falling within a small hour glass seemed soothing. At the same time a sand timer provides a visual countdown of progress through to the end of a lesson.
I preferred this set of sand timers because it comes with multiple time options. My oldest started out using 10-15 minute timers but has progressed to 20 minute timers. These time frames coincided with how much focus she has had based on her age.
Plus, I prefer the 15-20 minute sand timer to limit us both (particularly) during an All About Reading lesson. Since these lessons are based on individual progress and not intended for a lesson to be completed each day. A timer has proven helpful in mediating for us how long a lesson should take. It’s honestly easy for me to lose track of time and power through a lesson. I can forget the attention span of an 8 year old until she is rolling on the floor, loopy and laughing. We also use the 3 minute timer to decide how long our children should brush their teeth. Definitely helpful when they are trying to get away with that once over and done.
Begin with Challenging Mental Work
This is something I gleaned from Charlotte Mason while reading her first volume Home Education. She explained that math takes a great deal of mental work. Therefore, it is best to begin the day when the child’s mind is fresh, in the subject that requires the most mental work.
Regardless of which strategies you choose to use, stick with it until you know for sure that it isn’t working. Give your child (and yourself) grace as you figure out ways to help build the concentration muscles. Teaching your child how to stay focused will take time, but these strategies are sure to help you along the way.