Whether they are in kindergarten or twelfth grade, keeping a student’s attention for an extended period of time can be difficult. This is especially true at home where phones, friends, technology, and toys are all vying for their attention.
The average child’s attention span can be found by multiplying their age by 2-5 minutes; an average six-year-old can focus for 12-30 minutes, while an average 12-year-old can focus from 24-60 minutes. No matter where your child falls on the spectrum of average attention span, there are a number of ways to help them improve their focus.
1. Include physical breaks
Many children who struggle with paying attention can benefit from brief breaks for active play. Break up learning or study time with physical activity such as jumping jacks, bouncing a ball outside, dancing to a favorite song, or stretching. Studies have also shown that engaging in 15 minutes of active, physical play before starting a challenging task can help children stay on task.
2. Establish consistent routines
If completing homework is a nightly battle, start by establishing consistent times, locations, and routines. Doing homework every night at 5 o’clock at the kitchen table ensures children will not be distracted by other activities. Likewise, knowing that homework needs to be done at a specific time can help children focus on the task at hand, finish faster, and move on to something they would rather do.
3. Remove distractions
Children may struggle to complete homework or other tasks if there are too many distractions. Taking away smartphones and tablets, turning off the TV, and removing clutter from the homework area can help reduce distractions and make it easier for children to focus.
4. Break tasks into parts
Knowing how to start a large project can be difficult for kids of all ages. Instead of sitting down to tackle a big task all at once, start by breaking it into smaller, easier to finish parts. Not only does this give children the satisfaction of checking items off a to-do list, but it also allows them to take attention breaks while working; studies have shown that students who struggle with paying attention may complete tasks faster when using this method than when they attempt to complete it in one sitting.
5. Rate – and adjust – difficulty
Ask your child to rate the difficulty of a task on a scale from 1-10; if they say that it is an 8 or higher, ask them what you can do to reduce the difficulty to a 2 or a 3. Doing this can decrease children’s frustrations, make them more likely to ask for help, and give them more confidence when completing homework or assignments.