Cues to Help Kids to Stay on Task

By Piaf Azul
A stack of homework is overwhelming for some children.
A stack of homework is overwhelming for some children.

In every classroom, some children will find it difficult to stay on task, either daydreaming, fidgeting, doodling or chatting with their classmates. If your child is one such child, homework time can become a frustrating struggle for both of you. Spare yourself and your child this nightly battle by using some simple cues to help her get and stay on task.

Remove Distactions

Prepare a clean, uncluttered space that minimizes distractions where she can do her homework. Close the blinds, send her siblings to another room, and turn off the TV, radio and cell phone. If you cannot be in the room with her, check in with her regularly to help bring her back to task. Use a timer or easy-to-read clock to break up her time into smaller increments so she doesn't feel overwhelmed. Remember that concentrating is difficult for her and try to keep your own frustration or emotions out of your voice and body language.

Provide Structure

Set up an after-school schedule so homework is done at the same time every day. Each time, begin by reviewing your expectations for this study time, even if you think she knows them already. Help her make a list of the assignments she needs to complete and teach her how to check each one off as it is done. If you'd like to add some rewards to the system, create a sticker chart where she can add a sticker for each assignment finished and offer her a prize when she reaches a certain number of stickers.

Prep for Success

How well a child can concentrate on any given day varies depending on multiple factors. Set her up for success by eliminating hunger, fatigue and restlessness as much as possible. Set aside some time for vigorous exercise and a nutritious meal before your child sits down to study. If she's just gotten home from a long day of trying to focus, its unrealistic to ask her to sit right down to do her homework. Ensure she gets enough sleep by setting a consistent bedtime and sticking to it. Other factors that can help with concentration include reducing the amount of time that she spends in front of a screen and cutting back on sugary, caffeinated beverages such as sodas.

Attention Disorders

Its normal for some children to need help staying on task, particularly in the first few years of elementary school, and it doesn't necessarily mean they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or a similar medical issue. However, if you've tried several strategies and your child is still finding it so hard to concentrate that her schoolwork is suffering, its time to consult with your pediatrician to see whether your child's behavior warrants a diagnosis. If so, your child might qualify for special accommodations at school, such as a separate work space or extra time to complete assignments.

About the Author

Piaf Azul is a writer based in Austin, Texas. Since 2000, her work has appeared on numerous websites, including A Healthy Me, My Online Wellness and CVS Caremark. Azul is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American studies.