- Set realistic expectations
- Independent learning
- Setting S.M.A.R.T goals
- Brain foods
- Attention span
- Distraction free space
- Go outside
- Helpful tools
We’ve all been there: you get your child set up with their schoolwork and things seem to be going great. They are focused and getting work done. But as soon as you turn your back, your child is immediately distracted and off task!
How can you improve your child’s attention span so they can actually get their work done independently?
Kids are still learning how to focus on tasks and keep their attention for longer periods of time. Keep on reading to discover what small tweaks to your routine can help keep your child focused.
Set realistic expectations for children’s attention span
You probably don’t want to hear this, but you are likely expecting too much from your child’s attention span. Sorry. 🤭
Kids’ brains are still developing, and focusing for long periods of time is really hard for them. Yes, even teenagers! This is especially true when they need to do something they don’t really want to, like homework.
Expect your child to focus for about 2-3 minutes per year of age. 🕑
That means an average 10 year old can concentrate for 20-30 minutes before needing a break.
Is your child losing focus sooner than that? There are lots of ways to increase your child’s attention span and help them focus on their schoolwork.
Keep in mind though that focusing is very hard for them! Different days and times will be different. This is just one more area of development that your child needs your support in.
Independent learning increases concentration
When you are working to improve children’s attention spans, start with what they like. 🤗
Students are more likely to have a long attention span for activities that they are interested in and want to be doing. Does your child love reading? Encourage them to spend longer periods of time reading. Make it a fun challenge to see how long they can make it!
Of course, there will always be less desirable schoolwork that needs to be done, but the more practice they get increasing their concentration, the more they will be able to do those tasks as well.
Maria Montessori said;
“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”
In Montessori, you never interrupt a child who is concentrating. Even if you notice they are making a mistake in their work, let them keep working and just make a note to talk to them later.
The best way for kids to learn how to increase focus is the same way they learn anything else - practice! 💡
So whenever your child is really concentrating on something, do your best to let them keep going. This might mean waiting to call them for dinner, or letting them finish that reading assignment they are loving even though they need to start maths soon.
Setting S.M.A.R.T goals
Students have a hard time with vague goals like “work on research project” or “finish homework.” Help them set goals that are SMART!
- Agreed upon/actionable
A SMART goal might be: I will finish 10 maths equations before lunch at 12:00. It has a specific task that can be measured by counting how many problems are complete, the action needed is clear, and there is a time limit set. If we assume there is enough time before lunch to get that work done, then the goal is reasonable as well.
Work with your child to set SMART goals. When students can see there is an end in sight (just one more before my break!) they are better able to keep their focus. ✍️
Brain foods for attention span
“You are what you eat” is not just a common saying, it really is true. Students need quality nutrition to help them increase their attention span. Aim for more of the good stuff and less of the bad.
❌ Added sugar
❌ Highly processed carbohydrates
❌ Skipping meals
👍🏾 Whole grains
👍🏾 Fruits and vegetables
👍🏾 Healthy fats
👍🏾 Lean protein
Your child should eat a good meal before school work begins, and have a snack during the day. The right foods will help them stay focused and alert.
Increase focus with a good night’s sleep
Even adults trouble staying on task when they're tired. Kids’ brains need sleep even more!
Is your child getting enough sleep? Students ages 6-12 need about 8-12 hours of sleep. Teenagers (ages 13-18) should be snoozing for 8-10 hours per night. 🛌🏼
Ensure your child gets enough rest each night. Well-rested students are better able to concentrate on their work. More sleep means a better mood too, which will help students persevere through more challenging lessons.
Get moving to improve children’s attention span
Kids need movement. For younger students, they have energy to burn and need to get it out before they can really concentrate. Older students are more likely to be tired and need some movement to get the blood flowing and their minds feeling alert.
Include movement in many ways throughout your day. Students should take frequent breaks that involve movement - a quick walk, some stretching, maybe even a dance break! 🕺
Movement actually aids learning too. If your child is struggling to pay attention, add some movement to their learning activity. Hand gestures or simple movements aid memorization.
A fun example is to create hand motions for each part of speech when it comes to learning grammar. Students will love acting out sentences, and this method will help them remember the correct usage of things like verbs and adverbs.
Our brains are designed for movement, so be creative and find ways to get moving!
Create a distraction-free space for improved focus
Create a work environment that is free of distractions.
Your child needs a dedicated space for studying that only has the materials needed for completing schoolwork. So clear out those toys and remove electronics that aren’t needed for learning.
Think about what your child will need for the day. The computer, headphones, maybe paper and pencils? Help your child set up the space so that they don’t become distracted searching for a calculator in the middle of doing their maths homework.
When the space is free of distractions, students are better able to keep their attention on their work. ✔️
If possible, your child should get outside every day. Morning is best, but midday can also be a great break.
When school is in person, students have break time every day. Include this in your home routine as well. Spending time outside helps with executive functioning - the brain’s ability to make decisions and organize information.
Time outside also helps with quality sleep.
Helpful tools to improve children’s attention span
Set a timer to motivate your child to complete their work. Timers can be used in many different ways! Did your child set a goal to complete a writing task before lunch? Set a timer so they can see how much time they have remaining. Or, agree to work for a set amount of time and then take a break.
We love visual timers like the Time Timer or a sand timer because students can see exactly how much time they have left. If a visual is too distracting, set a timer on the phone or computer.
Using timers helps students learn how long it takes them to complete tasks and helps them learn how to set better goals. Often, my students overestimated how much they could get done in 20 minutes. But after using the timer for a few weeks, they had a better understanding of what 20 minutes really felt like, and the goals they set became even more realistic. This is a great life skill!
Blue light glasses, night mode, and other blue light blockers 👓
Working on screens can be tiring for students’ eyes, which can make it hard to stay focused. Protect your child’s eyes with blue light glasses or by turning on night mode on their device. Encourage them to take screen free breaks often.
Noise-reducing headphones 🎧
Some students struggle to tune out noises in the room while they are working. Try a set of headphones that reduce the noise. For many kids, this helps them increase their focus and concentration.
Sensory tools 🪀
Use your judgement with this one. For some students, using a “fidget toy” like a fidget spinner, a stress ball, or a lump of clay can be distracting. But for others, it keeps their hands busy and allows their mind to concentrate on the task at hand. If your child is generally active and moves around a lot, a fidget toy might be a helpful tool.
You can also try larger-scale sensory items like a chair band for feet or an inflatable wobbly chair cushion. Some active children enjoy sitting on an exercise ball rather than a chair or using a standing desk.
Sometimes chewing gum helps, too! Try one new thing for a week or two to see how it goes.
Apps to block social media 📵
If your child is having a hard time staying off of social media during class, try installing an app that will block certain sites.
Sometimes, students need adult support to stay on task. This is normal! But you are a busy parent and may not have the ability to work one-on-one with your child for each subject.
That’s where GoStudent tutors come in. Our tutors know how to motivate and engage your child to stay focused on their lessons. They teach the skills your child needs to succeed. Sign up for a free trial lesson today! 🚀