Five tips on how to improve your child’s concentration at school
Spring is a season of celebration. The cold winter weather is in retreat, the flowers are in bloom and the evenings are getting longer. But it is not all fun for your kids; May is also when end of year tests take place.
However, there are many ways you can support your kids at this time and help to relieve some of the pressure. Below we outline some tips on how to improve concentration in your young ones, giving them the best possible chance to succeed with their learning.
1. Don’t skip breakfast
What children eat can have a major impact on many areas of their life, from their moods to their energy levels. It can also impact their performance at school. Indeed, recent studies have shown that kids who eat breakfast every day may perform better in terms of memory and attention than those who skip the meal.1 This is because young children grow rapidly, and so it is vital they have enough nutrition to supply their brain with the energy it needs. The type of food children eat is also important. For example, iron contributes to the normal cognitive development of children;2 in Europe, however, between 5-20% of young children have a deficiency in this area.3
Key tip: If your child is not receiving all the nutrients they need through a healthy diet, then supplementation could be a solution.
2. Take the scenic route
One way to make sure your kids are firing on all cylinders is by encouraging them to walk or cycle to school. A Danish study of 20,000 pupils, aged between 5 and 19, showed that those children transported to school by car, train or bus, scored lower on concentration tests than those who made their own way.4 Indeed, the British Association for Community Child Health, concludes that there is mounting evidence that physical activity helps cognitive development in children.5
Key tip: Encourage your kids to find an active way to get to school.
3. Ditch the device
Smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles are very common among children these days, but they could be harming their performance at school. Although there are no official guidelines in the UK, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a maximum of one hour of screen time a day for 3-5 year olds, and two hours a day for older children. 6 The concern is justified. Did you know? British children under ten years old have regular access to an average of five screens.7 According to the Chief Medical Officer for England, overexposure to screen time can contribute to issues with attention deficit disorders.8
Key tip: Limit time on devices and encourage play in the natural world.
4. The importance of naps
Being well rested is the key to performing at your best, whether you’re an adult or a child. In fact, parents often fret as to whether their young ones are getting enough sleep. However, a key way to improve concentration and attention could be to encourage daily naps. Recent studies in the US and the UK have shown that young children who nap in the afternoon experienced increased learning and memory.9,10
Key tip: Encourage a nap after reading to help your kids learn.
5. The power of play
With spring in the air, it’s the perfect time for kids to get outside and play with their friends. The good news is that this may be beneficial to their development and help their learning. This is because the problem solving associated with play can help children to develop their attention spans, as well as other cognitive functions. 11, 12, 13
Key tip: Encourage your kids to engage in active play outside.
1. Hoyland A et al.Nutr Res Rev 2009;22:220-234.
2. Commission Regulation (EU), 2010: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1493817823345&uri=CELEX:32010R0957 Accessed 3rd May 2017.
3. Domellöf M et al.JPGN 2014;58(1):119-129.
4. ScienceNordic, 2012: http://sciencenordic.com/children-who-walk-school-concentrate-better Accessed 23rd March 2017.
5. Sigman A. BACCH News. 2015;Special Issue:20-22.
6. OneHealthcare, 2015: http://www.1ohww.org/how-digital-devices-influence-childrens-brains/ Accessed 23rd March 2017.
7. Sigman A. Arch Dis Child. 2012;97:935–942 DOI:10.1136/archdischild-2012-302196. Published on-line October 8th 2012
8. Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, 2012: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/255237/2901304_CMO_complete_low_res_accessible.pdf Accessed 26th April 2017.
9. Kurdziel L et al. PNAS 2013;110(43):17267–17272.
10. Williams SE & Horst JS. Front Psychol 2014;5(184):1-12.
1. Hillman CH et al. Pediatr 2014: DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-3219. Published on-line September 29th 2014
2. Burdette HL & Whitaker RC Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2005;159(1):46-50.
3. Whitebread D et al, 2012: http://www.importanceofplay.eu/IMG/pdf/dr_david_whitebread_-_the_importance_of_play.pdf Accessed 26th April 2017.
Date of Preparation: April 2017