Which parent can happily declare – ‘My child has great concentration powers; she can stay focussed on her studies for hours on end’? Well, hardly a few, I suppose. Getting children to concentrate on their work is one big challenge for most parents. Here are some simple tricks and tips for parents to help improve their children’s concentration.
1. A calm mind: Nothing like learning to stay calm to enhance the power of concentration. Teach your child calm-down techniques. One such technique can be for her to sit still, close the eyes, shut herself mentally out of all external distractions, take several deep breaths and relax. She will also need to de-clutter her mind, for distractors can also come from within. Let her not allow any other thought than the task on hand to disturb her thought process. Let her bear in mind that any distractor, whether internal or external, can be a focus-killer.
2. An organised study area: Findings of a study at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published in The Journal of Neuroscience (January 2011) suggest that the chaos caused by the clutter in your environment restricts your ability to focus. This means that if there is clutter in the study area, your child will not be able to concentrate well. Therefore, teach him to keep his study table organised always. And, it is not just the study area, but also his study material. Let him not be distracted by hunting for his books or notes just when he sits down to study. Teach him proper filing methods for his work-sheets so that he can easily locate them.
3. A ‘sound’ environment: While some children prefer an absolutely quiet study environment, others might prefer some background music. Encourage your child to identify what type of sound environment is ideal for her and set it up accordingly.
4. A short break: Taking a short break is the smartest trick to up your child’s focus. It will serve as a breather for the brain and help it function better after the interval. Remember, often your child will find it difficult to concentrate simply because he suffers from mental tiredness or fatigue. So, to ensure his ‘mental-fit’ to focus and study, encourage him to enjoy a break every now and then. The break can serve as a healthy distraction or just relaxation (even a power nap!). Also, children have a limited span of attention. Therefore, a break will rejuvenate their brain and help them get back to focussing on their task. A study titled, ‘Brief and rare mental ‘breaks’ keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals pre-empt vigilance decrements’, by Atsunori Ariga and Alejandro Lleras was published in the journal Cognition (December 2010). The findings point out that prolonged attention to a single task hinders performance and, therefore, suggest brief mental breaks to stay focussed.
5. An exercise or two: There are simple exercises to improve concentration such as clenching and opening the fists, wiggling the toes, staring at a blank wall or an object, or simply sitting still without even any involuntary movement. Let your child punctuate her study or activity time with such exercises so that she can concentrate better.
6. A glass of orange juice: Orange is rich in flavonoids, which improve cognitive functions. Also, the fruit contains natural sugars such as fructose, sucrose and glucose. These sugars are the preferred fuel-source for the brain. So, a glass of orange juice can be a perfect ‘boost’ to your child’s concentration. Include it in his daily diet.
7. A sip of water: An article titled, ‘Just half a bottle of water could boost students’ exam success’, published on the website of the University of Westminster (11 May 2017) mentions two important research findings – (1) In 2012, scientists at the universities of East London and Westminster found that students who brought water into the examination halls passed with better grades. (2) Another study by Dr Mark Gardner from the University of Westminster and Dr Caroline Edmonds from the University of East London found that just 300ml of water can boost students’ attention by almost 25 per cent. Surprised by these findings? Well, it is important for you to know that the brain is made up of 85% water. It needs to stay hydrated to function well. Therefore, you should urge your child to take a sip or two while she is studying. It will surely improve her focus.
8. A bowl of walnuts: Having the appearance of mini human brains, these nuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are the preferred fat for the brain and the nervous system. Walnuts contribute to keeping the brain healthy and aid cognitive functions such as memory and concentration. So, keep a bowl of walnuts handy on your child’s study table. Let him snack on it while he is studying.
9. A good night’s sleep: Thanks to the technological era, we are forced to live fast-paced lives. And, the one thing we are prepared to sacrifice first so that we can cram in more activities into a day is sleep. This holds good for children too. If your child’s brain doesn’t get enough rest, she will not be able to concentrate well. So, make sure she gets her share of 8-10 hours of beauty sleep, depending on her age and individual needs.
10. A bite of dark chocolate: Yes, you got it right! You can encourage your child to bite into dark chocolate without feeling guilty. The flavonoids in dark chocolate improve blood flow to the brain and, thereby, boost memory and attention span. So, let your child enjoy chunks of dark chocolate. In fact, even a hot chocolate drink can increase blood flow to the brain for 2-3 hours according to the findings of a study published by Farzaneh A et al in the journal Neurology (7 August 2013). Though this study was conducted on elderly people, there’s no doubting how much beneficial a cup of hot chocolate can be for your child!
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