This time of year, kids are short on focus and long on distractions. Many spend their school days squirming in their seats, looking out of the window and itching to go outside and play. Fresh air and sunlight can be strong competition for reading, writing and arithmetic.
Kid’s grades can start to slip, and invitations to parent-teacher conferences may appear. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
A University of Alabama at Birmingham education expert suggests a few ways to keep your child on task so they finish the school year with an academic roar and not a whimper.
Encourage after-school play. The outdoors is calling. When kids get home from school, don’t force them to hit the books immediately, says Lynn Kirkland, Ed.D., professor of curriculum instruction at the UAB School of Education. “Allow time for outdoor activities so children don't feel they are being punished by school work.”
“Even if you can allow them 15 to 30 minutes to run and play, it will help them concentrate when they begin to work on their school assignments,” she says. “Their mood typically will also be better.”
Learn a little outdoors. Let your children read or do homework on a balcony, patio or anywhere outside, she says. The fresh air will do wonders for their creativity, she says.
“As a kindergarten teacher, I used to take my classes outside to write under the trees,” Kirkland says. “Much evidence points to the need for children to have more outdoor activities.”
Kirkland references Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder that notes children’s focus and attention is much better when they interact with nature.
Don’t slack on sleep and nutrition. It’s an ideal time for sports, and many kids practice or play games past sundown. Eating fast-food dinners on the run and cramming homework late at night certainly will affect their concentration, Kirkland says.
Prioritize. Sleep and good nutrition should trump late-night games, she says. Lack of rest and poor diet can spill into your child’s classroom performance and everything they do.
Focus on the reflection. This is the season for standardized testing. Tell your child that giving in to their distractions can paint an incorrect picture of their academic ability, she says.
Talk to your child about the importance of focus during these tests and class in general. Explain work ethic: Tell them that even adults get spring fever, but when duty calls we’re all expected to perform.