How to Help Your Child Focus at School

By Rosenya Faith
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Attention and focus require the maturation of a variety of areas of the brain, from the brain stem to the pre-frontal cortex, and a variety of factors can affect your child’s ability to pay attention in school. A healthy breakfast, a good night's sleep and an arsenal of stress-reducing activities will go a long way in helping your youngster focus. If you're concerned about a potential attention deficit issue, speak with your health care provider.

Nutrition Considerations

A hearty breakfast each morning provides your child's brain with the calories (energy) necessary to concentrate, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website asserts. Skipping breakfast can lead to irritability, restlessness and fatigue, KidsHealth says.

Food can have a profound effect on development. Incorporating fish oil supplements or foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids into your child's diet can improve inattention, according to a study published in Paediatrics and Child Health.

Magnesium deficiencies can interfere with attention span, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. Iron is fundamental in brain development, and a deficiency can lead to poor cognitive test performance in childhood, while a deficiency in B vitamins can lead to poor mental alertness.

Sleep Issues

Kids need a sufficient amount of sleep in order to focus, retain information, solve problems and stay energized, according to the National Sleep Foundation. A lack of sleep can lead to a variety of behavioral and learning difficulties, from poor conduct to slipping grades, the sleep group explains. According to a study in the Sleep Medicine Reviews, high school students with a B average consistently got 10 to 50 minutes more sleep than C-average students.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night for school-aged children between 6 and 13 years of age, and 8 to 10 hours each night for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17.

Calming Activities

Children learn and commit information to memory the most effectively when they are calm, according to the John Hopkins School of Education. Help your child develop a repertoire of calming activities to relax in stressful situations at home and in the classroom. Start with deep breathing, inhaling deeply to the count of three and then breathing out. Help him to focus on breathing in through his nose and relaxing his shoulders. For young kids, blow bubbles to demonstrate the technique, breathing in deep and blowing out to make bubbles.

Try muscle relaxation, working from head to toes and tensing and relaxing each group of muscles as you go. Have a young child stand frozen and tense like a snowman and then “melt” when the sun comes out.

Take an imagination vacation, leading your child through a series of positive images and focusing on sights, sounds and scents.

Focus and Concentration Activities

Give your children activities to help them build focus. Help your child develop self-control and become comfortable with static positions for extended periods of time. Place a chair in the center of a room and have your youngster sit down. Challenge him to see how long he can sit without moving.

Play a game that enhances concentration, attention and memory with a pile of coins. Choose a few from the pile, arrange them in a sequence and then cover them up. Have your child try to recreate the sequence from the remainder of coins in the pile.

Use picture puzzle books with young children, looking for hidden objects or finding items that are out of place. Encourage an older child to improve his attention skills with crossword puzzles. Play a memory card game with your child or Simon Says to help him focus while also expending some physical energy.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.