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Concentration for children – 8 ways for children to concentrate consistently

Written by: Malak Tariq

Concentration is a skill that enables humans to fix their attention to one task, thought or activity while keeping distractions at bay.

“Concentration” has become a task because we live in the world of instant gratification. We are living life 10 X faster and swipe culture does not allow us to see the details. We cannot stand, stare and sum up. Devices ping constantly with notifications from multiple apps. News flow keeps changing with every refresh on our feeds. Endless scrolling across 30 seconds of short reels and viewing once message updates tell us that not many have the time to slow down, observe, or read long notes or texts. Even eating has become a sport of sorts as humans juggle clicking and documenting food before or during eating.

Children are imaginative and impressionable. While they have an inherently rich curiosity and observation for things around them, devices today are engulfing kids in large amounts of screen time. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 now spend, on average, a whopping 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day, 4.5 of which are spent watching TV.

While recreation and fun are necessary, it is also vital to give undivided attention to essential tasks accordingly. Parents might make long lists to ensure time management but if a task is done without concentration, it either remains unfinished or is finished unevenly.

Concentration assists in studying, enables faster comprehension, improves memory, helps in focusing on a task, job or goal and enables us to ignore meaningless and irrelevant thoughts. Concentration, of course, can assist in achieving goals and in acting more efficiently. Parents should embody ways to build concentration which can be followed by children in their fundamental years.

Here are 8 ways in which parents can build concentration in children:

1. Break big tasks into smaller chunks

One essential technique that parents can employ and teach their children is the POMODORO technique. In this technique, a timer is used to break work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by a short break of 5 minutes. This will help children to make tasks measurable with a pause attached at the end.

2. Reduce distractions:

Parents should turn off pings, buzzes and all notifications on their phones, computer and tablet. Only turn back on the ones that you really need. Children should be given undivided attention especially when they are doing work. A calm and noiseless setting can also be provided for children so that they can understand and focus on any big or small task at hand.

3. Doing homework at the same time every day:

Our brain adapts to a pattern. One habit takes 21 days to form. It is essential then, to fix a time for studies every day. If children start doing their homework once at 4 pm, for example, this time frame can be continued for days to come. This will create a pattern in their minds and they would register that 4 PM is the time for books.

4. Physical activity:

The brain needs fresh stimulation and exercise along with the body. Parents should incorporate exercises like stretching and games which improve concentration. For example, parents can take children for a walk. They can tell their children to take deep breaths and observe how they breathe. Parents might as well as children can observe their breathing patterns. This would require added focus given action has to be felt and done. It is one interesting activity to do for maintaining focus.

5. Enough rest:

One night without proper sleep can disrupt brain functioning for 4 days that follow. In such a scenario, it is important to get sound sleep. When children sleep early and wake up early, their brain remains fresh and focused. Therefore, rest is important and intervals between finishing one task and beginning another task should be filled with stretching, healthy eating or power naps.

6. Set time for completion of goals:

If there is no fixed time frame to complete a task, then the brain loiters without any sense of urgency. It is important to set time for completing a task so that all the focus and energy can be poured into that one task till it is over. Small yet substantial work times bear fruit. For example, when they have a plan children can do better at both work and play that is consistent. Parents can choose small tasks to add to their days. This will help in developing good habits.

7. Play games that require focus: A game that can improve concentration is

Red Light - Green Light

  • An adult is the “traffic light” and stands at the opposite end of the room or field from the children.

  • Hold up different colours to represent stop and go. Start with known cues of red and green but then – to challenge thinking –try different colours, such as purple for “go” and orange for “stop”. Try the opposite (red means go) or switch to using shapes or sounds to represent the actions.

  • When someone “goes” when they should stop, simply have them go back to the starting line.

  • Give children a turn at the traffic light.

Head-Shoulders-Knees-& Toes

  • This classic activity requires children to work on their self-regulation skills by overriding automatic responses as the song is changed.

  • Begin by having children point to their heads, shoulders, knees and toes while singing the song.

  • Challenge them by omitting body parts in the sequence and/or by asking children to point to incongruent body parts. For example, tell students “when I say to touch your head, touch your toes !!" or "When I say touch your tummy, touch your ears."

8. Reduce screen time:

Parents need to make sure that their child is not excessively watching television or using mobiles for longer intervals. This disrupts the sleep cycle, wastes time and becomes a colossal distraction for children as well as parents. The key is to put the phone off and complete the task at hand. Phones should be kept in separate rooms so that children and parents can engage with undivided attention when it comes to tasks like completing work, talking and eating.

All of these ways have a physical activity component and can be adapted by parents for their children in a playful yet structured manner.

If all these ways still do not work, parents should be supportive of their children and take proper care of their needs. Even if medical intervention is required for dropping attention spans over a longer period, parents should help children with that.

It is with the care and conversations with parents, that children can inculcate values that go a long way in life.

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