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Science says that the ability to concentrate can determine the kind of future that our kids will have. It says that concentration can mean the difference between a life of achievement, and one of struggle and underachievement. But what do you do when your child can’t concentrate?
More importantly, are there simple things that you can do at home to reduce children’s distraction and increase their focus? In other words, can a child who can’t concentrate be taught to focus on the present moment?
Although dealing with a child who can’t concentrate can feel like walking a tight rope, we now know that there are simple strategies that can help improve children’s focus and concentration.
This article shares some of the reasons that may explain why your child can’t concentrate and proposes simple activities that you can do at home to help them reinforce their concentration skills.
Why do some children find it hard to concentrate?
- Does doing homework always take forever?
- Would your child win a “Daydreamers award”?
- Are they restless?
- Do they have a terribly hard time staying focused on tasks?
- Are they always forgetting things such as what they were doing, the instructions they are expected to follow, or even where they left their stuff?
- Do they have a hard time following directions because of their inattentiveness?
- Are they restless or fidgety?
- Are they easily frustrated by having to do tasks that require them to remain attentive?
If your child can’t concentrate, you are probably quite familiar with one or several of the scenarios above. But where does their lack of focus and concentration come from?
Experts say that concentration is one of those things that children develop as they grow older. In other words, they say that lack of concentration in children is normal and gets better as your child grows older and develops skills such as self-regulation and self-control.
While views vary, many experts suggest that children can remain attentive for two to three minutes per year of age before losing focus.
This means that while a 2-year-old can remain focused on a task for between four to six minutes, à 10-year-old can concentrate on a task for between 20 to 30 minutes. So the first reason that can help explain why your child can’t concentrate is age- or development-related.
Other reasons that explain lack of concentration in children include:
- Sedentary behavior – science says that kids who participate in regular physical exercise have higher levels of concentration.
- Fatigue – concentration levels drop if your child has too many activities. Also, not getting sufficient rest may explain why your child can’t concentrate.
- Skipping breakfast – Science says that both children and adolescents who skip breakfast are more likely to have poor academic results and are also more likely to display low levels of concentration.
- Distractions – distractions are among the most common causes of inattention in children.
- Learning disorders – learning disorders such as ADHD may explain why your child is having a hard time paying attention.
A parent whose child can’t concentrate worries because poor concentration affects both academic and behavioral outcomes.
How poor concentration affects your child’s behavior
Poor concentration has a negative impact on your child’s behavior. It is often associated with impulsivity, restlessness and poor organization.
Lack of focus also has a negative impact on your child’s academic performance. Lack of concentration means that your child will find it difficult to understand and follow instructions, which means that they will find it difficult to complete assignments and may therefore more easily fall behind.
A child who can’t concentrate will also have a difficult time undertaking activities that require sustained effort and may struggle to perfect any activities that require practice.
The good news is that several activities can help improve your child’s ability to resist distractions and to pay more attention to the tasks at hand.
Here are a few tips that may help when your child can’t concentrate.
What to do when your child can’t concentrate
Like many other skills, children can learn to concentrate by practicing activities that help them to work on their focus and concentration skills.
Here are five simple tips that you can try to increase your child’s concentration.
1) Identify and eliminate the triggers
Did you know that the most effective way to deal with poor behavior is to understand the reasons driving that behavior and then to work on those reasons?
The same is true if your child can’t concentrate. In other words, identifying the reasons behind their behavior – fatigue, easily distracted by videogames/toys/siblings/friends, skipping breakfast, insufficient time spent outdoors – and then addressing them is one of the easiest ways to deal with their lack of attention.
2) Propose activities that reinforce concentration
Certain games and activities are concentration boosters. Age-appropriate games that focus on the development of children’s executive function skills are the most appropriate because they teach more than just focus and concentration.
Such games teach kids about understanding and following instructions, hand-eye coordination, sifting through information and picking what they require to solve a problem, working on their memory skills, visual discrimination skills, attention to detail, and much more.
3) Privilege games that focus on increasing attention
Several researchers working on improving children’s self-regulation and focus skills found that certain games such as “Simon says” are great for kids because they force them to pay attention to what is said, to remember that information, and to use it to take action.
Another great game that your kid will love – and which is also good for their concentration – is the “Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders” game.
Instead of the traditional “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes song”, kids are expected to do the opposite of what they are told (for example touch their toes when they are asked to touch their head).
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4) Use fidget toys
Children who are “busy fidgeting” may find it harder to pay attention. That’s why fidget tools are often used to distract such kids by keeping their hands busy and therefore allowing them to focus on something else.
Although fidget toys can be great for kids who can’t concentrate, it is important to avoid trends and to choose appropriate fidget tools depending on your child’s fidgeting behavior.
Also, fidget toys aren’t the best choice for all kids: they work with the kids who really need them, but can actually increase the lack of concentration among the kids who don’t.
Choosing the best fidget toys for your child can be difficult given all the fidgets out there today. I am personally a big fan of discrete fidget toys that can be taken everywhere and have actually used some in the past to help my daughter deal with her anxiety.
Our favorite fidget toys include focusing putty, Marble Fidgets, Smiley stretchy men and Squishy balls because of their size which means that your child can take them absolutely everywhere! These are great options for keeping your child’s hands busy.
If your child has “fidgety feet”, you might want to check out these fidget bands that can be attached to their chair or desk.
The thing with fidget toys is that you may have to try out several of them to determine what works best for your child – or if fidget toys work at all!
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When should you worry if your child can’t concentrate
It can be worrying if your child seems easily distracted and unable to concentrate, but it is important to remember that many kids experience difficulty concentrating at one point or another.
That said, lack of focus and concentration may be a sign of a learning difficulty and it is important to speak with a qualified professional if you notice any extreme and lasting behavior in your child – chronic inattentiveness, extremely poor organizational skills, complete inability to remain focused, chronic and extreme forgetfulness, and so on.
A professional will help point you in the right direction.
Last thoughts on children who can’t concentrate
It is normal to worry when your child can’t concentrate, but it is also important to propose activities to help your child work on their concentration skills.
Any games and activities that can help them learn to store and retrieve information is great for strengthening their focus and concentration skills.
Encouraging them to plan their activities by themselves is also an easy way to help them improve their autonomy as well as a host of many other skills such as focus and concentration, critical thinking, visual discrimination, and so on. The printable resources proposed at Playing-and-learning.com can help your child strengthen these skills and much more.
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