Boy sits at school, but is not concentrated during the lesson.

Angeliki Chatzaki

Sometimes children seem to have difficulty in concentrating. There are several ways to enhance children's concentration.

Strategies to improve the child's concentration

Many children find it difficult to concentrate, either because they have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or for different reasons, e.g. emotional, other disorders, etc. Sometimes children seem to have difficulty in concentrating, they just get bored with an activity and quickly turn their attention to something which they feel is more entertaining and enjoyable. Nevertheless, we must remember that it is normal for every child to be unable to concentrate for several minutes on an activity.

There are several ways to enhance children's concentration. Of course, these strategies are not the therapy for ADHD or any other concentration disorder but are only part of a specialised treatment program.

Play

In general, we should keep in mind that children learn more and faster when they play. So, keep away tablets, computers, and other electronic devices and include a play element, either learning or non-learning in the activities. There are some categories of games In particular that help in increasing concentration a little more.

Girl is lying in a prone position and does a puzzle

  • Brain games: You can train and strengthen a child's ability to concentrate with games that require thinking, planning, and application of memory. Crosswords, puzzles, and card games such as UNO can be used.

  • Sequencing: The link between sequencing and concentration is strong. Sequencing the recipes and putting things in order alphabetically are excellent activities for children who have concentration difficulties.

  • Additionally, games that challenge your child to sit in a chair without moving or fidgeting to see how long he can do it, for example, the game of Frozen Statues can be chosen.

A healthy diet

A healthy diet has a direct link with the child's concentration. A diet that includes a lot of fast food or food rich in sugar is harmful to both physical and cognitive health, while a diet rich in vitamins and proteins such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, and lean meat helps to increase perception and concentration.

healthy food

  • Caffeine: A recent study in America shows that children have increased their intake of caffeine and caffeinated energy drinks. This gives them an unhealthy dose of sugar, which will lead to an instant increase in energy. However, this also results in hyperactivity, and difficulty in concentrating and sleeping later.

Routine is important

It is very important to maintain a schedule for the child, even if it is a flexible one. For example, the child gets home from school at 2, eats lunch at 2.30, starts studying at 3.30, and so on. This planning not only helps in time management but also helps the child's brain to know when to study, which in turn helps in concentration. The child knows that after lunch he will have to complete his homework for the next day, so he will be properly prepared to go into "study mode."

Sleep and breaks

Many children can concentrate better after a good night's sleep. A short 20-minute nap after school or in the afternoon helps to refill energy. In addition, the child should not be hungry and finish the toilet before starting with the books, as these are the needs that often interrupt the study process.

Divide larger tasks into smaller ones

Getting a child to read the entire chapters without a break is a hard task. It is always better to divide them into paragraphs so that the child can get a sense of progress by completing smaller parts of the work. Moreover, this will motivate him to continue. This tactic can also help with household chores, and not just reading.

Find the way your child learns

Not all children learn the same way. Some children process information more easily after seeing, some do it after hearing, while others after having hands-on knowledge of that information. It is important to understand which category your child falls into, as this will help him/her to learn faster, avoid tiring and reduce concentration hiccups.

illustration with three children and the three learning types

  • Visual type: Children with this type of learning understand visual information better. In this case, the child will be able to concentrate better since he/she will be able to read the information and write it down. In addition, short notes, drawings, and paintings are helpful.

  • Auditory type: Children under this category learn best when they listen to the information, for example by reading a text aloud or listening to someone else reading it. For this reason, they may find audiobooks better than conventional books.

  • Kinesthetic type: Children with this type of learning ability use touch and need to grasp and feel the object to process it better. For these children, learning by doing is more effective than learning by sight or hearing. For example, if the child wants to learn about planets he/she can make planets with different materials and colours, go to a planetarium, etc. A child who belongs to this learning type and learns letters will be helped more through movement, for example making the letters with his body.

Prepare the child for the next step

When your child is busy, tell him what he should do next. At the same time, give him a few minutes to prepare for starting the new activity. For example, while he is busy with the tablet, don't tell him suddenly that he has to start studying immediately. It’s better to tell him that after the next 10 minutes the tablet will be turned off to start studying, with a reminder again after 5 minutes. You can even use a timer.

Set short-term goals

Set a time limit for achieving the goal. If it is a study, then you can say that a specific number of pages or chapters should be completed within certain minutes. Remember that the average concentration time for an adult is about 42 minutes, so the time for a child should be less, about 15-20 minutes. Of course, some children find it difficult to function under time pressure, as such, it’s always advisable to consider the option that suits best the child.

Reward system

This doesn't necessarily mean sweets or toys. A reward can be in the form of praise, something the child loves such as stickers or something he/she loves to do. This is how you can motivate them to keep going. For example, a walk in the park or playground, and playing with parents can be more result-oriented. Take time, do activities, and don't necessarily reward with material goods.

Allow distractions

Children are often full of energy. Give them time to express that energy when they have finished their task so they can focus on the next one. It is very helpful if the child does something completely different for a while. Movement always helps to learn, so the child can hop or run for a while and then continue. Of course, we don't let the situation get out of hand and set limits.

Yoga and breathing exercises

Let's be honest, we live in a world with an abundance of stimuli and distractions. Even for adults, it is sometimes difficult to concentrate. Yoga and simple relaxing exercises such as deep breathing, mental positive images, and thoughts help in brain activities and developing concentration.

girl is sitting in a meditation pose

Use children’s energy effectively

Some children have more energy in the mornings, while others have it in the afternoon. Studying or other activities are best done when the child has the mood and energy so that they can concentrate better. Always start with the hardest activities or tasks, so that by the time the energy levels start to drop, the easier tasks are reached.

In conclusion, like any skill, concentration can be improved. However, in cases of neurobiological disorders, the results may not be as positive as expected. If the child has been experiencing severe concentration difficulties for some time, he should be examined by a pediatrician or pediatric psychiatrist and referred to a specialist therapist, if necessary.

From the Synopsis Team

Angeliki Chatzaki, Occupational Therapist