- Guestpost by Nicky Ellis of Horses & Foals
In this digital era, it is easy and affordable to purchase the latest gadgets and gain access to technology. One often finds children riveted to tablets, smartphones or a computer screen, engrossed in playing games, or their attention is glued to the television set. Studies have shown that the usage of gadgets can cause children to have a limited attention span. Such habits lead children towards a sedentary lifestyle from a young age. This can cause multiple health issues, both physical and mental. It also affects children’s reasoning power, the capability of thinking logically and hampers their creative mind. Initiating children into a sports activity or helping them inculcate a hobby or enrolling them in a creative / performing arts class can serve as a great motivation for kids to break the monotony of their usual routine and spend some time doing something fun and creative.
Here are my top five ways to help your child to improve their focus.
1. Learn horseback riding
It is proven through research, that a child’s cognitive ability is enhanced when the child engages in horseback riding. Studies have also proven that the vibrations emanated by the horse, as it is being ridden, have the ability to activate the sympathetic nervous system in the human brain. In simple words, what this means is – when a child engages in horseback riding, their abilities with learning and memory functions get better. Children are able to maintain focus for a longer span. Their problem-solving skills are enhanced as well. These attributes acquired by children during learning horseback riding extends to their academics and other life aspects as well. These children are better equipped to work on academic tasks and perform better in school.
As the rider of a horse, the child learns to quickly adapt the position of their body to match with the movements of the horse, so as to maintain their balance and save themselves from falling off the horse. Staying atop the horse is not the only challenge. The child is also required to maneuver the horse to stay on the trotting track. Tackling these things simultaneously helps in sharpening their focus.
Meditation changes the patterns in the human brain. It also provides an advantage in mental focus which can improve cognitive performance. It is scientifically proven that meditation is linked with thicker cerebral cortex as well as grey matter. In simple words, this means, meditation is linked with the parts of the brain associated with learning, memory, decision making, and attention span. Practicing meditation daily does not ask for a lot of time from your schedule. Just five to seven minutes a day will suffice, to get good results.
Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean sitting still and quiet in one place. It can also involve slow and repetitive movements. You can consider enrolling your child for Qi Gong or Tai Chi classes. In these forms of meditation, the focus is on breathing and effective relaxation of the body and mind.
Practicing meditation on a daily basis helps children clear their mind of distractive thoughts. Meditation helps with strengthening the immune system. Children who practice meditation regularly are likely to be physically and psychologically more resilient. The quality of sleep is improved. Children wake up feeling fresh. Well slept children are able to concentrate better for a longer duration.
3. Listen to music
The right genre of music helps your mind calm down and relax. It helps increase focus and maintain concentration. Listening to music while doing homework or studying, helps reduce distractions. When playing music for children – to help them focus, it would be advisable to opt for classical music as there are no lyrics involved. This kind of gentle music helps children gather their thoughts and focus better. It is a scientifically proven fact that listening to classical music positively impacts one’s productivity. It boosts the motivation of children when they are starting new tasks.
Alternatively, if you (or your child) do not prefer to listen to music, you can use earplugs. Good earplugs help drown out sounds that might cause children to feel distracting while studying.
4. Learn art and craft
Learning and practicing art calls for the full attention of the child on the activity. Through their own experience, they realize that they are not able to create the masterpiece they had in mind when they let their focus wander off. Children also learn how to keep at practicing until they get better and better results. This teaches them the importance of perseverance.
Crafts such as Origami are known to have a therapeutic effect on the mind and help children focus better. The symmetry required to get the perfectly crafted item requires a great deal of concentration. This concentration then pours into their studies as well and improves their scholastic achievements.
5. Communicate and set a time budget
Children have a hard time trying to focus on studies or a particular task because we expect them to concentrate longer than the children’s attention span lets them. It would be a great idea to have open communication with your child about the study time that is expected from them and the number (and duration) of breaks they are allowed during study time.
When children are not studying, it would help if you can play with them where the games involved require children to focus. This way you can help your child learn how to retain their attention on a task through gameplay.
If you feel your child is very easily distracted and has is not able to focus on a task, you can ask them to complete a certain task in a particular duration of time. Setting expectations prior to beginning a task gives them the discipline to finish their work on time. Appreciating the child’s effort on the completion of the task will motivate them to live up to expectations each time.
Children are highly likely to find it difficult to sit still and concentrate if they consume foods with high sugar. It would be a great idea to cut down on excess sugar as well as processed food and include foods that are healthy and contain omega-3 fats.