Focusing on anything can be a pretty daunting task, but imagine being a kid. The world is this big, exciting place, filled with new and interesting things. A ball? Whoa, it bounces! A pop-up book? How does it do that?! And then there’s all the distractions. Tablets, cellphones, TV screens... so much to look at, so little time. No wonder keeping a child on task is nearly impossible. Thankfully, more than a few moms have tips on how to get kids to focus, and, lucky for us, those moms are willing to share their secrets with the rest of us.
It’s not always easy for me to keep my own soon-to-be 4-year-old son focused and on task. When I need to keep him preoccupied on the fly, I try to get him to do breathing exercises with me. Sometimes we use an app to accomplish this goal, so he has one thing, and one thing only, to focus on as he breaths in and out. If we’re in a busy, loud, or crowded place, I know he won’t be able to focus unless we leave or take a walk. And as for the general day-to-day, I find that having and sticking to a set schedule (especially when it comes to meals and naps) really helps him focus throughout the day.
But every mother, and every child and every family and every set of circumstances, is different. So I asked other moms how they keep their kids focused and, well, they had some pretty fantastic suggestions:
“I got this idea from a friend. When getting my daughter to clean the playroom, I would walk around with the tablet and make a video of the room. I would point it at all the areas that need to be cleaned and say what needed to be done. Then she could re-watch it over and over so she knew what to do. She is 5 now and we started this when she was 4. That way I don't have to keep reminding her to do some other part. She can be totally independent and she gets it all done!"
“My girls (6 and 3) love setting their own timers with our Amazon Echo. It makes it more of a game to try and finish [whatever they're trying to accomplish] before the timer goes off.”
“Make sure it’s something they like. If not, you’re f*cked. Tech gadgets and anything you say not to do seems to capture their attention perfectly. So I would suggest keep telling your kids not to do something, and they’ll stick to it for hours.”
“We practice daily yoga to prepare her for more focused activities. We also get a ton of exercise and extremely limited refined sugar intake. Keep to a schedule as much as possible.”
“I tell my daughter to ‘look at mommy in the eyes’ then have her take a deep breath.”
“If my son is having a hard time focusing, I tell him he needs to ‘get the wiggles out.' I have him do some running, jumping, or some other very active task for five minutes first, and then have him sit down and he is able to focus much better.”
“I have my kiddos dance like a ballerina, jump like a rabbit, run like a road runner, etc. to do the task I have instructed them to do so that it helps them remember the task and not lose focus. Also, I have taught my kiddos to read by writing in the sand, hanging upside down off the couch, writing on their back, etc. It can be any task. If I make it hands-on, they retain the info, focus, and follow through better, even if they are not kinetic learners.
Also, consistency. If they are distracted, getting down on my knees so we are eye to eye. If they are younger, we might hold each other's faces gently or get nose-to-nose, and clearly, patiently communicate in a way they understand. Also, I do no raise my voice, I lower it a little. This way they have to focus on what I am saying so they can answer my question of, ‘What did mommy say?.’ Then they can follow through in whichever manner is best for that child at that time.”
“We practice meditation. Morning and night my kiddos meditate for how old they are. They can choose breathing techniques, or chanting a mantra of their choice.”
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.