In today’s fast-paced, overstimulated world, there is a great tendency among Americans toward shorter attention spans. In fact, according to MedicalDaily.com, the average human attention span has shortened to eight seconds thanks to digital technology!
We want our kids to be focused, present and grounded; however, our way of life seems to have moved in the opposite direction, with electronic devices, phones, gadgets and screens clamoring for our attention almost every minute of the day.
Studies have shown that physical activity and coordination exercises improve children’s attention spans, promote overall learning and the achievement of academic success. Below we’ll highlight some great exercises that can boost your child’s span of attention.
This is probably the most crucial factor in helping kids reach greater levels of focus and attention…fresh air and nature. Recent research has demonstrated that children who regularly play and exercise outdoors have increased cognitive performance and brain function than those that don’t.
Movement and play are what activate the brain; a game of tag, hide and seek, soccer, pitch and catch, or a bike ride, can work wonders for kids’ concentration levels. A hike in the woods or walking the dog also qualify as beneficial exercise. Once outside, and not cordoned off in front of a television or computer screen, children will naturally want to play and be active.
If it’s challenging to make time for outdoor play at home, parents may want to try having their kids walk to school, and if that’s not possible, then another option might be taking them to the playground for twenty minutes before school starts. If you’re not sure where to find a playground in your area, your local town hall or community centre may be able to help you; online resources also exist to aid you in your search.
And if it’s rainy or cold outside, indoor playground facilities and special gyms for children have sprung up in many cities across the country, such as the Kids at Play sensory gym.
It’s important to let children choose the activities that they’re passionate about and wish to engage in. The key to keeping kids engaged in exercise, especially when they’re younger, is to make it fun.
Yoga and Balance
Yoga and balancing activities can increase a child’s focus and mental acumen, calm and deepen their breathing, while also improving their strength, flexibility and coordination. More and more experts are concluding that proper balance can have positive effects on mental and physical behavior; when children learn stability in balancing positions, they’re able to apply that cohesion in daily life by focusing faster and more effectively.
Art and Music
Arts and crafts are excellent activities that allow a child to express thoughts and emotions that are often difficult to verbalize. They can also improve attention span, hand eye coordination, and memory. Drawing, painting, cutting and gluing all help promote concentration, self-esteem, clarity of expression and the ability to cope with frustration. Have your child draw or paint on a blank piece of paper (kids can sometimes get frustrated with color-in-the-lines or connect the dots pictures). Allow them to draw or paint whatever they wish; without asking them what it is they are drawing.
If your child shows interest in playing a musical instrument like the piano or the guitar, encouraging their continued exploration and learning of the instrument can enhance their attention span and memory skills, as well as develop motor coordination. The key here is to follow your child’s passion, and not to force them to play a musical instrument that they’re not at all enthusiastic about.
If your child regularly resists an activity, it may be because they find it too challenging or overwhelming. Changing the nature of the task may make it more successful; sometimes less structured entertainment, like playdough, finger painting, or hunting for small treasures in a jar of beans, will work effectively until your child develops more sitting tolerance.
‘I Spy With My Little Eye’
The age old game of ‘I Spy’ can work wonders for children’s attention spans. It provides dozens of minutes of fun and concentrated focusing. Often the parent will want to end the game before their child does! Choose a larger room with a good variety of colored objects and textures; as your child walks around the room guessing different objects, you can give them hints by saying “warmer/colder” or “freezing/burning hot!”.
At the end of the day, children will mirror what they see from their parents. Acting as role models by staying active ourselves will go a long way toward motivating and inspiring our children to do the same. When you integrate exercise and play outdoors into your lifestyle, your child will naturally, and happily come along for the ride. And their enhanced concentration and attention spans will thank you for it.