Finding focus:10 ways to help increase your child's concentration

Kids commonly have difficulty concentrating on tasks — particularly school work. Here are 10 ways to help your child focus better and gain the great feeling of accomplishment.

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  • Focusing on a task for any length of time isn't easy. There's a lot of busyness and commotion in life, so helping your child to concentrate and focus is a critical life skill. Here are 10 ideas to try.

  • Set tasks according to your child's maturity level

  • Often, the reason kids lose focus on a task is because it's either too easy or too hard for them. Take a close look at the activity and make sure it's the right skill level for your child. Also, it's a fact of life that we all have things to do that are tedious, boring, or not challenging. Help your child understand that sometimes we have to do things that are not fun or interesting. It's also helpful to point out that the sooner your child completes the less-than-interesting tasks, the more time he or she will have to do more enjoyable things.

  • Divide big projects into small tasks

  • A great tactic to help increase your child's concentration is to split the task up into smaller pieces. Big projects can overwhelm. We've all had that feeling of "I don't even know where to start." Splitting the task up will give a child the feeling of progress as the pieces are completed.

  • Minimize distractions

  • Give your child a quiet place to work when focus is necessary. Remember that kids haven't developed the same ability to screen out distractions that adults have acquired. Television, even coming from another room, is hard for kids to screen out. Soft music played in the work area can help mask distracting sounds.

  • Play "beat the clock."

  • Set a timer for a particular task that your child can work to "beat." Sometimes setting a short period of time will help them focus longer. One rule of thumb is that a child can focus on a single activity for about one minute per year of age. This is just a guideline — there are plenty of exceptions.

  • Teach how to set goals

  • Goals can be a great way to increase your child's ability to focus. When your child makes his own goals (with your guidance and rewards for reaching them) they can become a great motivator.

  • Offer praise

  • When you see your child paying attention to a task, notice and compliment him for it.

  • Healthy lifestyle

  • Good nutrition and enough sleep are huge factors in helping your child be able to concentrate on a task. We all know the sleepy effect a carbohydrate-heavy diet can cause (think of Thanksgiving dinner). Complex carbs, protein and fresh fruits and vegetables will help improve your child's ability to concentrate.

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  • Memory games

  • The ability to focus is like a muscle. With practice, a person can experience longer and more effective periods of concentration. Use memory games as a fun way to increase your child's ability, and have fun at the same time.

  • Avoid overscheduling

  • Kids that are whisked from activity to activity can feel overwhelmed. Be sure to allow for downtime to allow their young minds to recover from an activity.

  • Give advanced notice about changes in activities

  • One mom always faced a melt-down from her 5-year-old when it was time to leave the park, Grandma's house or a play date. She discovered that giving him advanced notice helped make that easier.

  • When you want your child to switch focus from one activity to another, give a few minutes warning time. For example, if a child is playing a memory game but will need to begin practicing the piano soon, give him a five-minute warning. The transition will be easier and your child will be able to refocus on the new task faster.

  • The ability to concentrate for long periods of time takes time and practice. Try these simple ideas for increasing your child's concentration. It's something that he or she will benefit from for life.

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Margot Hovley is the author of the novels "Sudden Darkness" and "Glimmering Light." Her self-reliance blog is at mynewoldschool.com, and she blogs about her writing adventures at margothovley.com.

Website: http://www.margothovley.com

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