Helping Children Improve Attention and Focus

By Huntington Learning Center

Whether your child struggles sometimes with getting distracted or deals with a syndrome like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, knowing how to rein in the focus is invaluable for every student. Here are several strategies that parents can work on with their children to help them improve their focus, prevent themselves from veering off task, and keep themselves on track:

Embrace routine. Students who have regular routines tend to be more successful academically and feel less stress. Work with your child to create and maintain a consistent daily schedule, from the time he or she wakes up to bedtime. This will help your child make the most of the hours in each day and successfully transition from activity to activity. 

Develop good sleep habits. Make sleep a priority for your child. According to WebMD, studies show that lack of sleep can prevent people from thinking clearly and slow down their thought processes. Your child will have a harder time focusing if he or she isn’t getting sufficient sleep each night. Lack of sleep can also negatively impact the memory, making it that much harder for students to commit that which they study to short- and long-term memory. 

Rely on checklists. As your child moves through each grade, the amount of work and things to keep track of will increase substantially.  It’s never too early to teach your child a simple organizational system for recording homework and upcoming project and test dates. This system will help your child minimize wasted time and make it easier to dive into work rather than waste time figuring out what he or she needs to do.

Encourage exercise. Research out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests that physical activity may increase students’ cognitive control, or ability to pay attention and result in better academic performance. Encourage your child to do jumping jacks before sitting down to do homework or take a brisk walk up and down the street before heading off to school each morning (or better yet, have your child walk to school if feasible).

Embrace the “one thing at a time” mantra. Many children find it hard to get started on tasks, procrastinating on homework because they struggle with prioritization. Have your child take each night’s list of assignments and rank them from most to least important. What is due tomorrow? Of those things, what are the most difficult (and therefore make sense to do earliest in the evening)? After the “due tomorrow” items, what’s left and when are those things due? Teach your child to tackle one task at a time, which will give him or her a sense of accomplishment with each completed item.

Pay attention to learning styles. Every child learns differently, and what works for one might not work for another. Take time to get to know your child as a student so you can adjust his or her studying environment as needed. Is your child more focused pacing while studying or curling up into a cozy chair? Does he or she work best working while listening to music? By reading and thinking out loud? By studying in a quiet room without any distractions?

As school gets more intense, your child’s ability to focus becomes an essential skill. If your child struggles to concentrate for extended periods of time or you notice him or her having difficulty completing difficult tasks, Huntington can help. We work with many children who face similar challenges and can help your child become a more attentive, successful student.