Teachers and parents often struggle with getting kids (of all ages) to focus and concentrate. The ability to concentrate on less-than-exciting tasks is a critical skill for kids to build. They not only need to build this skill for school, but also for after-school activities and more. The ability to sustain attention helps kids get better at things and also aids in learning. But just how do you get your child to concentrate on things he or she isn’t that interested in? We recommend focusing on six areas. In this article(Part I of II), we discuss the first three.

Step 1. Help your kids concentrate by making sure they get plenty of sleep

When kids don’t get enough sleep, it affects everything – their mood, their appetite and especially their ability to concentrate. Studies have revealed that sleep-deprivation causes the brain to fall into sleep patterns while awake – this explains why kids can become easily distracted when tired. It’s been proven that lack of sleep actually affects how kids think; in particular the areas of the brain that handle problem solving and organization.

So how much sleep does your child need?

Here are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics Childhood Sleep Guidelines to ensure optimal health: (per 24 hours on a regular basis including naps)

  • 4 to 12 months – 12 to 16 hours 
  • 1 to 2 years – 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years – 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 12 years – 9 to 12 hours 
  • 13 to 18 years – 8 to 10 hours 

Adequate sleep is step number one on the path to better concentration and focus for kids. If you’re struggling with bedtime and sleep, teaching your child deep breathing is a proven way to help improve sleep length and quality. Be sure to get your child’s sleep where it needs to be before tackling any other steps in improving concentration. 

Step 2. Help your kids concentrate by making sure they get adequate daily exercise

It may seem counterintuitive that getting kids to run, play, yell and sweat would lead to greater focus, but it does. Exercise, whether in the form of an organized sport, a yoga flow, a run, or some very active play helps discharge excess energy which leads to a calmer state for both mind and body. This sense of calm is important for a child to focus on something that requires intense effort. Yoga is an especially effective method for helping kids concentrate. As we’ve shared in earlier posts, yoga provides many valuable benefits for kids and helping instill a sense of calm is one of them. So, before you ask your child to focus for a period of time on homework, chess, or practicing an instrument, have them do a yoga flow or some other form of exercise to expend that pent-up energy. You’ll be surprised at how much better they can focus afterwards.

Step 3: Help your kids focus by teaching them how to meditate

Encouraging your child to meditate can do wonders for his or her ability to focus on tasks. There are a myriad of benefits of mediation for kids. According to many experts, including 11 featured in this article by ThriveGlobal, kids reap a host of benefits from meditation including improvement in focus, reduction in stress and many more. It may seem daunting to attempt to get your kids to meditate, but it doesn’t have to be. We recommend you start with very short meditations – say 1-3 minutes – then work your way up to 5-10 minute sessions. Of course, as with anything, modeling meditation for your kids is a great way to get them on board. And it will do wonders for you as well.

You can start very simply and easily. Set aside a corner of the room for meditation – perhaps with a meditation cushion for each of you – and invite your child to sit with you. Put on some soft, meditative background music and invite your child to take in a few deep breaths to a slow count of four in and out. Next, ask your child to close their eyes and continue breathing while focusing on the music. Now if this doesn’t feel doable, you can always try a free kids meditation app like Ninja Focus. This app invites your child into the colorful world of Bunny Island where he or she has access to lush, relaxing music, beautiful yoga flows and short meditations designed to instill a sense of peace, calm and focus in your child. It’s healthy screen-time with the added benefit of helping your child reduce stress and improve concentration. The best part? You can download it for free right now and try it for yourself.

When it comes to helping your child increase their ability to focus and concentrate on school and homework, there are many things you can do to help. In this article, we touched on the first three of our six foundational steps.

  1. Ensure your child is getting adequate sleep
  2. Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise
  3. Teach your child how to meditate

Next week we will provide the next three steps in Part II of this article. Stay tuned!