How do I get my kid to FOCUS?!?! That’s the question of the hour and so many families deal with this particular struggle.
Kids tend to be little balls of energy and excitement and the idea of getting them to sit down and focus for any period of time can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be that much of a challenge.
These 14 tips will help you get your kids to focus without bribes, threats, or sticker charts (unless your kids love sticker charts…)
How to Get Your Kid to Focus
Focus is hard both for adults and kids. I have 14 tips to share with you that will help you improve your child’s ability to focus – and maybe even give you some ideas on how to improve your own focus!
Want a visual of all the tips to print out? Grab the Homeschool Tips Printable Poster pack for free!
Tip 1: Make Sure Their Basic Needs Are Met
This seems so basic but I’ve found that very often our focus problems are centered around a lack of sleep, a need for food, or an emotional need that hasn’t been met.
If you’re facing focus problems, start paying attention to their sleep cycle. Are they getting enough sleep? Are they working at a time of day suitable to their needs (i.e. they’re not losing focus just in the early afternoon when it’s common to be tired).
Did they eat enough? Maybe they could use a snack.
And lastly, make sure there isn’t something bothering them. Maybe they had a fight with a sibling and they’re still angry. Or they haven’t had enough time to connect with you (or someone else important to them).
Tip 2: Remove Any Distractions
Distractions are just that – distracting. And they can steal our focus from us.
I know Facebook is a huge distraction for me. I can’t even have it on a tab on my computer or the little notifications will drive me nuts.
You’ll have to figure out what is distracting to your child. It can be different for everyone!
Some people can not stand any noise whereas others cannot focus in the quiet. Some do best with plain walls and others enjoy the businesses of color and posters.
Tip 3: Create a Suitable Learning Environment
Again, this is going to look different for every child.
But, in my opinion, a suitable learning environment will have everything they need to learn in an accessible place. Books, calculators, pencils, markers, paper, etc.
It’s very distracting to have to get up and go retrieve the thing you need to do your task. And that little break in focus can take a long time to get past.
It’s been said that every time we take a break from our task, it can take up to 15 minutes to get back on task.
Tip 4: Make Sure It’s Relevant
You cannot blame kids for getting bored and losing focus on topics that are not relevant to them, they don’t have an interest in, and are presented in uninteresting ways.
Have you ever tried to read a dry non-fiction book that doesn’t really interest you? It’s so hard to get through every single page.
As homeschoolers, we have the option to pick and choose what our kids learn. If they’re struggling to focus on one subject, review the material and determine if the problem is in the material.
Tip 5: Use Rewards
Rewards can be hit or miss so make sure to use them wisely.
For instance, many parents want to give their kids an unrealistic task and offer a reward. For example ‘If you can focus on your school work from 9 to 3, then we can go get ice cream’.
It’s not reasonable for kids to focus for 6 hours straight. The type of reward will not be productive.
However, there are ways to reward kids that can help them focus a bit more.
‘I see you only have 5 questions left on your math page! Why don’t you zip through those 5 questions and I’ll set up a picnic lunch for us to enjoy’.
Or ‘You’ve been working so hard on your multiplication facts! Let’s mark off every time you’ve mastered a new set of tasks. When they’re all complete, we can buy a new book!”
Tip 6: Breaks, Breaks, and More Breaks
The key to focus is a bit opposite of what most of us think – breaks. And lots of them.
Most people cannot focus for long periods of time. We’re just not build that way (or we lost the ability to focus for longer periods of time).
We need regular breaks.
The trick here is to recognize that you work for a period of time and then take a break and let yourself do the things you wanted to do while working.
For me, this means I work for 40 minutes straight with as few distractions as possible, and then I let myself take a 5 minute break in which I can get more coffee, scroll FB, check my email, etc. It’s much easier to avoid those things knowing I’ve set aside time specifically for that.
For kids, this might look like setting a 15 minute timer, explaining to them that they have 15 minutes to work and then you’ll take a short stretch break. Depending on the age of your child, it might help to explain to them why you think this will help.
Tip 7: Use Visual Cues
Have you ever been working through something that feels like it has no end? Or maybe you can see the end but can tell it’s a long way off. It’s hard to keep your focus, right?
I took a personality quiz not that long ago. It was 20 pages of questions and each page had 10-20 questions on it. It took for.ev.er.
I got bored. Not even halfway through I lost my motivation and considered just quitting altogether.
Now imagine being a kid with a giant stack of work in front of them.
Visual cues can help break up some of the work (and frequent breaks will help here, too).
Instead of giving them a stack of work with everything, give them a visual list. Break down their work into small chunks, write down their list (add doodles if you can), and then schedule in breaks.
It’s much easier to focus when you have cues, foreseeable breaks, and reasonable amounts of work.
Tip 8: Get Plenty of Exercise
That is, make sure your kids get plenty of exercise. It’s hard to sit still and focus your brain when your body just needs to get up and move!
Your kids might need a movement break. Or perhaps they need to get some energy out in the morning before starting lessons.
Whatever you think, make sure they get plenty of movement in if they’re having trouble with focus!
Tip 9: Stock Up on Fidget Toys
If your kids are having trouble sitting and focusing, fidget toys might be the solution. There are many options so really think about what will help your particular child.
Logi-Bear, my youngest, almost always has an urge to chew. So we tried a necklace with a chewy on it. That really helps him when he needs to focus.
There are some that you play with something in your hand. Fidget spinners are great, too!
Tip 10: Use Alternative Seating
I love introducing alternative seating because it helps in two ways.
First, it brings something new to the table (literally). Doing the same thing every day can get old. But add in a new spot to sit and it feels new again.
Second, alternative seating options can really help kids with focus. Light bouncing on an exercise ball, lounging in a bean bag chair, swing on a yoga chair, etc.
Tip 11: Work Next To Your Kids
I work from home so I simply cannot be next to all of my kids redirecting their attention all of the time.
But I’ve found that having them do their school work next to me while I’m working helps them focus.
We share what we’re going to work on, set a shared timer to focus for 20 minutes, and at the end, share how much we got done. It seems to help when we share a goal.
Tip 12: Add Variety
Doing the same activities over and over can get boring. And when we’re bored, we’re more likely to lose focus.
Add some variety to your lessons.
Variety can mean changing location, changing the type of activity, changing the time of day, changing the atmosphere. Just something to make it different.
We love to do a lot of different activities to keep it exciting, challenging, and interesting.
Tip 13: Shorter Focus Time
I’ve found that humans tend to overestimate how much time we can focus in one go – adults, too! We feel like we should be able to focus for hours at a time.
But science doesn’t support that. In fact, the data I’ve read shows that our focus ability is much closer to 20 minutes at a time and even less for kids.
I’ve been testing this idea on myself using pomodoros. The idea is to focus on one task for 20 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. What I love about this plan is that I set one goal for the 20 minutes and don’t let anything else distract me. I put my phone down, close social media, close any windows that might distract me, and just focus.
Since I know I’ll have a 5 minute break to do whatever I want, I’m not tempted to cheat and check my email. And you’ll be amazed at how much can be accomplished in 20 minutes.
Kids can work the same way but in even shorter increments. Don’t expect them to focus for an hour or even 20 minutes. Start with 10 minutes. Explain the process, plan the goal during the pomodoro, explain the break, and test it out.
Tip 14: Include FUN!
Too often our homeschool plans don’t schedule in enough fun. But think about it – if you have a boring task ahead, is it easier to get through when you have something fun to look forward to?
I know I tend to bribe myself with something fun when looking at a task like cleaning the bathroom.
Fun doesn’t have to be high-energy episodes, either. Just make sure to sprinkle in activities that your children enjoy to break up the harder and less exciting tasks.
Get the Posters
I hope some of these tips help you figure out how to get your kids to focus better.
Make sure to grab your copy of the posters so you can reference these ideas any time you want!