How to teach a child to focus
The world is an exciting place. There is so much to explore. There are so many activities to be involved in. Our kids are involved in sports, dance, music lessons, camps and kids groups. Though those are all great opportunities for kids they are also continuously stimulating them.
What does it mean when we talk about focusing? Focusing is the attention or a span of time that a person is putting towards a task. When we are small our attention is shorter. Some children can sit down and listen to a story all the way through. Other children may only be able to get halfway through and then they are onto something else. Don’t get discouraged. Each child’s attention span develops at its own rate. My Granddaughter, Willa, is a very busy child. She loves to look at books but she wants to hold them and turn the pages. Within minutes she is on to something else.
Engaging a child
Because each child’s attention span is different means that it is constantly growing and changing. Just as a child develops skills to walk so do they develop the skills needed to sit and listen to a story. There are many ways to engage a child and increase their attention span. Playing with puzzles, building towers with blocks or Legos. If Willa and I were putting together puzzles she would be there for as long as I’m willing to sit with her. She likes to be hands on and will become engaged. So whether you’re reading, working on puzzles, building a tower out of blocks or Legos they are all ways of increasing your child’s focus.
For older children have them help you make a grocery list. Let them help get the family groceries and carry the bags in.
Play to Your Child’s Interests
It’s important not to push children towards things they are not interested. Instead direct your child towards toys they connect with. If your child loves the creatures that are under the sea take them to an Aquarium and let them see them up close. Take them to the library and get books of sea creatures so they can learn more. Kids love to share fun facts that they have read in books. Find educational videos about life under the sea. As your child’s focus for things they are interested increases so it will for other things.
Not only are children’s bodies busy so are their minds. Keeping kids engaged is a good way to help those busy bodies and minds. Mindfulness is about being engaged in the here and now, letting everything else go. They are truly being present. This may seem easy for some kids and not as easy for others. Some children can be completely in the moment enjoying what is right in front of them yet others can’t. Some children are more anxious than others. So they worry about the past and the future. Their worries are too big for their mind and body. Kids with busy minds and bodies need help slowing down first. If the calming work is put into place first, tackling focusing and tasks at hand will be much easier.
Ways to Calm a Busy Child
There are several different ways I have found to help a child who is anxious or unable to focus. Here are some ideas to try:
There is something about a walk that can clear your head. Half way through the day I often find myself going for a walk to give myself a break from a busy day. Same for kids, walking or hiking is a great way for them to focus and stay in the moment. When out in the woods talk about the animals you see and hear. If you see a squirrel talk to your child about how important it is to stay still so both of you can watch the squirrel before it runs off.
Breathing techniques are often used to help calm an individual down. Lay your child down on the floor. Put their favorite stuffed animal on their chest. Now have them take a deep breath while watching the stuffed animal. Then have the child slowly let the breath out while still watching the stuffed animal. Repeat breathing a few times. The last time tell them to blow their breath out fast to see what happens. This activity allows the child to be in the moment and to focus.
Some children need an activity that they can focus on that includes movement. Tapping hands on a table is a good way to regain focus. Tap out beats that are simple for the child to repeat. If they can imitate the simple beats make it a little harder. Be careful not to make it too hard, as we don’t want them to become frustrated.
Spending time with pets, such as a cat or dog, can be so calming for a child. Take your dog for a walk, play catch or cuddle on the couch. Each of these can be calming because it allows the child to stay in the moment. Being around horses is a good way for children to deal with their anxiety and stress. We were able to get my youngest daughter into horseback riding lessons. It helped her to keep her anxiety in check because horses can sense feelings. When she was calm the horse was calm too. Teaching a child how to care for and treat an animal can be a big stress reliever and can bring about a calming effect.
Hugging and Cuddling
Hugging and cuddling are so beneficial. It is known to release hormones that make us feel good. Be in the moment with your child. Talk about their day. Practice breathing techniques from above. Slow and calming breaths.
All of these things can be done in a matter of minutes. By incorporating these kinds of refocusing techniques you will be able to help calm your child. Giving your child a special place to be calm can also be helpful. Once your child learns the difference between the two, being anxious or calm, they will start to seek out being calm.