Age-wise Activities To Improve Your Child's Focus
Are you worried that your child doesn’t concentrate in class and is easily distracted? Read on to see how you can help him focus in this gadget-driven era.
By Susan Philip
The age of information has also ushered in the age of distraction. Staying focused and paying attention now seems like a challenge.
The problem afflicts not only adults but also children. Many children today, be it a preschooler or a teenager, find it difficult to concentrate for long on one task. However, it is not a problem that doesn't have a solution. As parents, we can train our children to tune out the distractions.
According to a study titled Executive Function: Skills For Life And Learning (2012) conducted by the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, ‘the ability to hold onto and work with information, focus thinking, filter distractions, and switch gears is like an airport having a highly effective air traffic control system to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways.’
The principles on which an airport works aptly conveys the state of a modern child’s mind, where numerous stimuli are competing for attention. “Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them,” the report further states. The study also suggests that early childhood and adolescence are the best time to develop these skills.
Age-wise activities to help your children concentrate
This is the best time for you to begin laying the foundation to help your child develop the ability to focus. Make sure your child gets a balanced diet and provide him with plenty of opportunities to play outdoors. Establish a daily routine and see to it that he gets sufficient rest.
- Play ‘statue!’: Young children find it difficult to sit still for any length of time. You can help your child learn the habit by playing ‘statue’ games. Say ‘freeze’ while your child is in motion. Tell him if he can hold the pose till you say ‘unfreeze’, he’ll win. Don’t make him stay in any position for more than half-a-minute at a time. You can play this game whenever your child begins getting restless or fidgety.
- Play the sorting game: Give your child flash cards containing pictures of flowers and fruits of different colours. Ask her to sort them, first by type of object and then by their colour. This activity will help your child develop the ability to concentrate.
- Sing songs: Action songs, where your child has to match an action to a phrase, like ‘clap your hands’, ‘stamp your feet’ and so on, can help him learn how to focus and listen. Activities like threading beads also build focus in preschoolers.
As your child grows, so will her energy levels. Let your little one spend her excess energy by running about and playing before you ask her to sit down to do her studies. She will be more ready to focus.
- Play focus-building games: Jenga, a game where players have to remove blocks from a block tower without letting it topple, is one such game. Card games like Memory and Snap! are also enjoyable ways of training the mind to focus. You can also make up your own games. Write a list of items in random order, and ask your child to re-do it, putting the items in alphabetical order. This will help hone her organisational ability while building her focusing skills.
At this stage, your child will be open to many distractions. Set apart a study area that is relatively calm. Make it a gadget-free zone, ensure that the TV cannot be heard there, and be firm that he is not to be disturbed by either family or friends during the designated study time.
- Break it down: Academic demands will go up exponentially at this stage, and children can get overwhelmed by them, making them distracted and inattentive. Help your child focus by breaking down big tasks into smaller ones to help them focus better. Train her to make a checklist, and tick off tasks that she accomplishes. This will boost her morale and make sure she has her eye on the goal.
- Use technology: Allow your child to use smartphones or tablets to play games that promote concentration. Download games keeping in mind your child’s tastes and interests, and allot a ‘gadget hour’ to play them.
- Do group activities: Gather a group of your child’s friends and play oral memory games. One child can start with a sentence, such as ‘Rohini has a red bag.’ The next child builds on it, saying ‘Rohini has a red bag with a blue pocket’ and so on, with each child adding to the list. This game builds working memory.
- Ask them to meditate: An introduction to yoga and meditation at this stage will help your child to focus and also be beneficial in the long run.
Give your teenager enough time to himself. Don’t ban gadgets and media but regulate their use. He will be more amenable to focussing on what you want him to. Teens too can be overwhelmed by the multiple demands on them. Help your child prioritise first, then train him to multi-task.
- Ask her to plan: Encourage your child to get into the habit of preparing track sheets for homework, assignments and term tests, etc. Get her used to the idea of monitoring her progress via these sheets and encourage her to prepare her own schedules.
- Build his strategic thinking: Strategy board games like Risk or the more complex board games, like chess, are ideal for building your child’s ability to focus and pay attention. Crossword puzzles and Sudoku also have similar beneficial effects, besides boosting his thinking capabilities.
- Get cooking: Teach your teen the basics of cooking. It builds focus and is also an important life skill to learn.
- Encourage sports: A sport like basketball or football helps a child concentrate and follow instructions. Even dance, as an activity, helps your child master the art of listening. Playing sports also gives him the opportunity to exercise.
By doing these simple activities you can help most children, irrespective of their age, stay focused. The earlier you start, the more your child will benefit from these games. However, even after sustained effort, if you find that she is inattentive or cannot settle down for a long time, it would be wise to bring it to your paediatrician’s attention as there may be an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed.
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