HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Five ways to help your child focus

Keep distractions at bay with these easy tips for getting kids to stay on task.

By GreatSchools Staff

Many young kids have trouble sitting still and staying focused. But as students get more homework, they need to be able to stick with a task and finish it.

Here are some ways to help your child stay focused:

Get the ya-yas out first. Moving the body motivates the brain. Try having your child walk or bike to school, play outside after school, do chores around the house, or play on a sports team. Make sure your child has had a chance to run, walk, or jump around before sitting down to homework.

Turn off screens and cell phones. Before your kid tackles homework or does anything that takes concentration, turn off the television. Or if others are watching it, make sure your child is far enough away that he can’t be distracted by it. Also, shut down or move him away from the computer, and if your child has a cell phone, make sure that’s off too.

Make a to-do list. Having a lot of chores and homework assignments can be overwhelming for kids. Help your child focus on getting things done by making a list — together — of everything he needs to do for the day or week. Then let him cross off each task as he finishes it.

Use signals. Try to avoid conversations when your child is working. To cut out distracting talk altogether, you and your child can even come up with a few basic signals. For example, when you point to his work, that means he needs to go back to what he was doing. Or when you raise your hand, that means he should stop what he’s doing and get to work. For some kids, it helps to just lay a hand on their shoulder to bring them back into focus.

Take breathers. During homework time, make sure your child takes a few breaks. After working for 10 or 20 minutes (depending on his age), have him get up and move around, get a drink, and then go back to work. But don’t let him get involved in something else during the break. Just make that time a relaxing few minutes.

Comments from readers

"I really need help to my childs focus and tips could be helpfull:-) "
"My son was a GATE student and once he was given this title he completely stopped doing his work and is now a sophmore with Freshman credits. His attitude is horrible and I don't know what to do, I know he is smart but is completely rebeling. His father and I are not together and haven't been for 15yrs. If I had the money I would put him in private school. any advise?"
"Not a comment...but a question.How do you help your 14 year old Honor Student who focus' at school beautifully but has no more in her when she comes home.? takes her 5 hours to do her work that if she focused could probably be completed in 3.We have tried so many things.Now she is getting upset over it as well.Help,anyone?"
"Many individual that suffer with ADD, are not focusing of the fact that it deals with the memory. I have researched information regarding this disorder and have found that it is treated like ADHD. We'll it isn't... one is intellectual and the other is behavioral. And that may be the reason for ones inability to treat. 1. We must focus on memory recall exercises 2. Extra time when taking test 3. Separate from distraction **** Treatment: 1. Flash Cards 2. In Class Board Exercises-Homework/ In class assignemnt. 3. Interactive Learning Exercises/ Tools. There are support groups in the area to assist parents, that have family/ children with ADD. ***** Please contact Thanks, AFCMSVO/NAPSP"
"Good suggestions and quite true. Let's add having parents actually look at the child's homework and praise the good parts. We all appreciate our work's being noticed."