Written by: Nanny Secours
Adopting healthy habits is a key element that contributes to a child’s school success. A good night’s sleep will increase their attention span and focus both at school and at home.
Children who do their homework right after school will focus better if they have a snack and a glass of water first. If they do their homework after dinner, they should eat a meal that is substantial but not too heavy, otherwise their energy level will drop.
To release the day’s stress, it’s important to have some downtime and take a break when your child comes home from school. Suggest a motor activity and avoid screen time. This break offers an opportunity to spend some quality time with your child and talk about how the day went. Your child will have the right mind set for homework after and be more inclined to stay on task.
Create a favourable environment by limiting distractions (radio, TV, cell phones, video games, etc.), with special emphasis on video games, as these are often a challenge for families with several children. Since kids sometimes have to wait for their turn to get help from a parent, turning to video games while waiting becomes tempting. The child who is trying to concentrate is then distracted by the desire to play too, or by the shouts of his siblings, the game score, or simply by the screen flashes in his peripheral vision.
To avoid this, simply eliminate distractions for everyone. Instead of playing video games, the siblings who are waiting can do a solo activity, such as practising their spelling or reading a book until their turn comes. The youngest can trace the letters of the alphabet, draw, make a puzzle or play with building blocks.
Some children will need background music while others will prefer complete silence (using noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs) for better focus.
In order to maximize the quality of time spent on homework and lessons, pick a quiet study area, a comfortable chair, sufficient lighting, a place to put school items and books nearby. This moment of the day, which requires staying focused and efficient, should take place in a pleasant atmosphere with a minimum of organization. In case you have no space to create a work area, simply place the items in a basket.
There are many different ways to help kids develop their sense of time, thereby helping them anticipate the tasks ahead. You can illustrate the homework routine on a board or write everyday tasks in an agenda. Check off the tasks as these are completed, thus using a visual support to illustrate the time allotted to each assignment (hourglass, timer, clock). Another point of reference could correspond to the time it takes to make dinner. For example, you can tell your child: “This activity ends when dinner is ready.” You can even separate tasks in two sessions or have a break halfway through.
Many children have a need to move or manipulate objects to stay focused. In stores, different items are sold, such as stress balls or malleable dough. You probably already have objects you can use at home (Play-Doh, bracelet, etc.). When these become more of a distraction, simply remove them; the need to manipulate an object has passed. Sometimes, objects only help to switch from one activity to the other. For instance, children can sit on an exercise ball to stabilize their movements. They can practise spelling words while playing with a hacky sack or ball, skipping rope or hula hooping. You can have them take a step each time they have the right answer, or ask them to write while standing up for a few minutes.
But be careful! Not all children feel this need to move. Use one or two techniques only. Excess will create interference with the original goal: to review, memorize and finish lessons!
Moving isn’t the only way to keep things dynamic. You should also vary your methods to stimulate the child’s interest. For example, you can study vocabulary words in a playful way, using different learning and memorizing techniques. Stimulate all senses: sight, hearing, touch, etc. You can write on different supports: blackboard, whiteboard, cards. You can even use apps for certain exercises!
Depending on the strategy used, the child will eventually find inspiration.
On a final note, always remember that keeping it light and humorous are effective tools to ensure your child’s collaboration. Smile and your child will smile too!
Education worker, Nanny Secours