10 ways of improving focused attention and concentration in children
Updated: Apr 22
As educators, we have observed many children with concentration difficulties. Children with challenges to sit still and to focus on a task without being distracted.
It is possible to help a child develop their focus, to be able to stay with a task and increase their concentration skills for longer and longer periods of time.
Children are naturally energetic and curious. And the main reason why they have difficulties keeping their focus is that they function differently to adults.
When what a child is offered to engage with does not captivate them, they get bored and quickly shift their attention to something more interesting. Adults are able to stay with what they are doing and can complete the task, even if they have no interest in it. It is important to recognize this difference between adults and children.
If a child has difficulty concentrating this can be seen through:
Inability to sit still, fidgeting, moving
Lack of interest in the task at hand
Easily distracted, looking around
Daydreaming or drifting thoughts
Difficulty to maintain a chain of thoughts
Difficulty to follow instructions
But we have seen that there are many ways to support a child to develop their ability to concentrate for longer periods. There are some great ways to help improve children’s concentration. We will share some different techniques on how to improve concentration in children here!
10 ways to improve the ability of concentration and focused attention in children
1. Play games & offer activities to build attention
Children learn the best through play. There are many different opportunities for play through materials that engage the child’s mind and attention in a way that supports increased focus.
Keep games on the screen to a minimum. Although the child appears to be fully focused, this concentration is built on fast pace and instant gratification and reward, something that actually works against the child developing real concentration.
Choose other activities and games that are designed to improve attention, awareness and focus. These kinds of tasks will help a child to develop their concentration, so that they will be able to use it in many other situations in their lives as they get older.
Our Cooperative memory is a game that requires focused attention, memory, as well as collaborative skills, and learning to ask for help. The collective focus and ability to keep patterns in the mind and remember their placement increases concentration. Each player’s ability to hold the pairs in their mind, and find the pairs, supports the collective attention. As it is a collaborative game you have reason to focus both for yourself and for the collective.
The link between sequencing and concentration is a strong one. Following recipes, setting the table and putting things in order are great activities for kids who have concentration difficulties.
3. Attention to details
Kaleidoscope play with the mirror captivated the child's attention! Sorting and pairing cards with different patterns helps make the child become aware of the details. Mirror images put the attention to the parts, they can all look the same, yet as they are mirrored patterns are actually different.
This can also be explored through the mirror, trying to replicate pattern cards or create novel patterns that have not yet been produced. This can be explored through our Level 1&2 Pattern Match game.
For older children the challenge can be increased by making two copies of the level 5 complex patterns, and as a pairing exercise allow them to focus on the intricate details and identify the ones that are identical.
4. Sequence and order
The colouring activities at all levels are developed to pay a lot of attention to detail, and to understand which colour goes where. This a can be done following step by step instructions, where children need to focus on the sequence to be able to do the activity.
It can also be done in a more challenging way, colouring the Base Cards first, and by building the patterns with the Base Cards, and thereby figuring out how to colour the larger patterns. For older children (and adults!) level 4 offers the ultimate concentration experience when approached like this.
5. The prepared environment
The environment has a great impact on children’s ability to concentrate. Environments that are more empty, without clutter, offer calm to the mind. But some children also thrive in more dynamic environments, and are not bothered once they are engaged.
When working in a shared environment children can learn to focus even with things going on around them, while the quiet of a home offers other opportunities for concentration. Both are beneficial.
Create an atmosphere for concentration. Speak with soft voices, and as an adult in the room, take care not to speak in a regular volume to a child, as this will disturb and break the concentration for the other children in the space. Go close to the child and speak softly. As you are their role model, the children will copy you to do the same. The shared responsibility for silence creates an environment that cares for each ones concentration.
For some children soft music can set an ambience that supports their ability to focus. For other children it can be very distracting. Take care to observe how music affects the children, and have those who benefit from it use headphones if needed so as not to disturb the others.
Movement is very important to help children to concentrate. Doing sports before a more focused activity is very beneficial. Also allow children to move when they need to, and to work in positions that are comfortable to them. Many children like being the floor, or laying down, and with their growing bodies it is important to allow them to choose their positions. Sitting upright at a table may work for some children but not for others.
Healthy eating habits have a direct link to children’s ability to concentrate. Regular, varied and healthy meals are essential. Soft drinks, junk food or food that is rich in sugar gives the child a fake high and then a big dip, and really decreases the ability to keep focused attention. Good snacks to help a child increase concentration are protein rich nuts, and dried or fresh fruit that is naturally full of antioxidants. This will instead boost the child’s brain capacity and increase cognition.
8. The importance of sleep
It is common in schools that children complain of being too tired to concentrate, giving different reasons for this. Being up too late, sleeping badly, or early and stressful mornings are some common reasons. Tired children are not able to focus. Making sure that a child sleeps well is essential and completely linked to their possibilities to develop concentration.
9. Don’t push a child to focus
Allow children to engage for as long as they can keep their focus on an activity. Pushing past that does not support the child to concentrate for longer. Rather see that that child has the right circumstances for concentration, and with time, this will allow the child’s concentration span to grow longer and longer.
10. Mindfulness activities to improve concentration
By combining relaxation exercises like deep breathing, with focus exercises, helps children find quiet inside and bring their attention to different parts of their being. To move from focusing on the outside world to focusing within themselves.