"Yeah Bruh, Good Luck Getting Me to Focus!"
How to Help a Child Focus: The Simple, Natural Way!
In a busy, constantly-moving world dictated by screens and massive to-do lists, it can be challenging for anyone to focus… Let alone a child!
Focus is a skill, and it's not an easy one. But, as with any skill, we have the intrinsic capabilities to become better at it with awareness, practice, and dedication.
Want to know how to help a child focus naturally and without medication?
Here are a few tried-and-tested methods that have helped me keep the focus of three insanely active, blonde-headed surf kids. Who knows, maybe they'll work for your grom(s), too!
How Can I Improve My Child's Concentration and Focus?
I am no doctor, so this isn't medical advice. It's just my personal take on what we do to help improve our kids' concentration and focus; simple advice and holistic strategies that work well enough to deem worthy of sharing.
1. Drain Their Physical Energy!
It's difficult for a child to focus their mind when there's so much energy running through their little bodies. I'm not saying wear 'em out to the point of exhaustion, or else they won't be able to focus at all. But getting the Ya-Ya's out has always helped them relax their physical body and to better focus their mind on the task at hand.
My favorite ways to get a little movement in before doing something requiring deeper focus are always
But this could really look like anything, as long as it gets the body moving, and if possible, outside is better!
2. Give them Movement + Mind Breaks During Tasks
For mental tasks requiring more prolonged bouts of focus, draining the energy beforehand might not be enough. Kids get antsy, and they're not built to focus for long timeframes.
In fact, according to brainbalancecenters.com, on average, "Childhood development experts generally say that a reasonable attention span to expect of a child is two to three minutes per year of their age". That's not a lot of time.
You can expand these timeframes by capitalizing on this knowledge and giving them ample break times within tasks. I like giving them movement/mind breaks before they reach their typical attention span breaking point, so they never feel totally 'burnt out'.
All it takes is getting up for a few jumping jacks, making a healthy snack, or even sitting on the couch and thinking about nothing to return to the task with increased focus and concentration. As soon as you see it slipping again, have them get up and walk away for a few!
3. Practice Mindfulness-Building Activities
To help a child focus, one of the best things you can do is to practice mindfulness activities. Then, when another activity requires said focus, their brains are better adapted to handle the difficulties of maintaining attention. Practicing mindfulness will boost focus and concentration in the long term and help them to ignore inevitable distractions that might otherwise steal their attention.
My advice is not to take these mindfulness-building activities too seriously or to expect too much from your kid but to also attempt to approach them consistently. My three favorite ways to do so are:
Your grom probably won't enter a state of enlightenment any time soon or sit still for ten to fifteen minutes in deep breathing with the eyes closed. But you can still get them to do their best and practice kid-friendly mediation. That's what I mean by don't take it too seriously- no kid should understand the true depth of mediation or have the capacity to practice it as an adult would. But they can still mess around, do their best, and reap the rewards!
Yoga and the associated breathwork will help keep a child's focus in the short term. Taking short breaks to work through a few yoga poses for kids' focus is the perfect movement break needed to return to an immediate task with renewed focus. But it'll also help increase a child's focus and concentration as a long-term characteristic. There's a lot of mindfulness to gain in connecting with their bodies and breathing at such a young age.
If you know me, you know that I have three barefoot babies who spend more time walking on the Earth than they do in shoes. Setting aside time to do so every day contributes to better focus thanks to the incredible benefits of grounding, like better sleep and lessened stress. I talk about this more in my blog, "I Raised a Barefoot Baby: Here's Why You Should, Too", for those interested in such a healthy, happy activity that will contribute to increased child focus.
4. Have Healthy Snacks and Drink On Hand
Hunger isn't a distraction when a kid isn't hungry, yeah? Keeping some healthy, focus-bolstering snacks and drinks on hand keeps their hands and mouths busy and bellies full. Doing something tactile, even as simple as picking up their drink cups or dipping veggies in dressing, will help keep their mental focus. Healthy food and drinks are the excellent answer to "how can I help my child focus naturally?
I mean, how could anyone focus with a fogged brain, fatigue, a headache, or any of the other ill effects of an empty, growling stomach?!
To get the most out of the foods and snacks you choose during mental activity, make them those that are in themselves good for focus, like:
- A bowl of blueberries (opt for frozen on a hot day!)
- A small bite of dark chocolate (in moderation, of course)
- A cup of nuts/trails mix (with m&m's to entice)
- A yummy salad with fruit
- A hydrating, filling smoothie with greens
- Avocado toast with sprouts
As part of my healthy eating activities for kids, I involve my groms in making their snacks and meals whenever possible. Doing this before a mental task will help their focus by getting some stimulation and ya-ya's out, so invite them to make their pre-focus snacks with you. And, as always, ensure hydration is met daily for focus to take full effect!
5. Teach Time Management. Be Their Beacon of Support!
Breaking down tasks (whether daily, weekly, or monthly) is essential for a child's focus during mentally stimulating activities, especially those that require substantial time and effort. Again, a 7-year-old should only maintain focus for a realistic 14-21 minutes. That means creating three to five separate time blocks for just an hour of homework! Let's be honest, a kid's time management skills aren't the best, so it's a massive help if you can structure it for them with their focus in mind. And if you take the opportunity, it's the perfect lesson in time management!
With wild imaginations and always-absorbent minds, you can never expect a child to focus for too long, and you won't get very far by verbally drilling them to 'pay attention!'. So be their beacon of support, and really help them to break things down by taking an active role in activities that do require a deeper level of child focus. You can even ask them what they need to help them focus, as they know better than anyone!
They will find these tasks more manageable by having set time blocks and something to look forward to during each break. They'll start to approach tasks with a ready, strong mind, and in supporting them these ways, you're contributing to massive growth as a little human.
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- Ash, Dev & The Salty Shreds Fam.