How does one get kids to sit down and listen when someone’s talking? How does one get restless kids to settle down and pay attention? This is perhaps one of the timeless challenges faced by both parents and educators alike is how to get children to focus and pay attention, and maybe even stay attentive for a little bit longer than they usually would. In Is It Santa? the story revolves around the Christmas cookies for Santa on Nelibeth Plaza’s book when the kids, Mya, Charlie, and Jacob, came home from school and encountered the case of the missing Christmas cookies that their mom, Rebekkah, had prepared for the arrival of Santa. To solve the missing cookies problem, the kids need to apply the sleuthing skills that require them to think critically, focus, and be attentive. 

Why do kids need to pay attention?

Attention equates to concentration. It also means being mindful. Mindfulness means being conscious or aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and environment. These traits should be instilled into kids during their learning and teachable growth phase. Whatever a child starts on, they will bring into their adult life. But why is it critical that one needs to be taught proper characteristic traits? Why is it crucial to impart the importance of concentrating, staying focused, and being mindful?

Better Memory Skills

One of the best payoff for a child for developing an attentive character at a young age is that their memory skills and retention is honed and improved. Practice, practice, practice makes perfect – well, almost perfect, that is. Simple memorization exercises help hone their cognitive flexibility and makes them stay sharp and alert in their environment, despite distractions. A simple activity like remembering where they stored their toys and books helps them become responsible adults someday. 

Better Social Skills and Improve Relationships 

This is where teaching kids the value of being mindful comes in. Being mindful involves being fully present. Teaching kids at an early age how to be aware of their thoughts and actions makes them more responsible for how they will react to their environment. For instance, when they’re playing, and someone takes away their toy, it is natural for them to feel hurt and angry. Training them to become mindful will teach them how to react in that situation. So, instead of retaliating, possibly biting and hitting the person who did them wrong, they would cry at first but then choose to forgive, walk away, and find something else to do. That might be a big thing to expect coming from small children, but then again, it’s all about practice. And constant practice eventually turns into a habit. 

How to get kids to pay attention? 

Saying “focus” or “pay attention” would never do, especially if it’s children aged five years old and below are being addressed. For this age range, and maybe with the older kids, it’s a matter of “show, don’t tell.” The most effective way of teaching someone is modeling it off, showing them how it works in the first place. For parents to get their children to pay attention, they must pay attention to how they react and respond. 

There is no hard and fast rule when teaching kids to concentrate and be attentive. The best way to approach educating kids with these traits is tailor-fit the approach according to the kids’ needs and personalities. There are no strict rules, but there are best practices. Read on to find out some of the practices on what are the best ways to help a child develop their attention skills.

Control distractions

It can be challenging nowadays to get a child to settle down in this day and age with many distractions. From mobile devices to easy internet connectivity to online games and social media platforms, social networking, even for kids, is a cinch! Getting them to stop playing their online games and get on with their homework can be daunting. Kids can get hyperfocus on one thing and lack focus on other things. Hyperfocus means intense concentration on the task at hand. Unfortunately, nowadays, those activities that matter the most are receiving less attention from kids, such as homework, house chores, time spent with family, etc. The solution is simple. Schedule or limit a child’s exposure to these distractions. Limit their screen time. Adults should pay close attention to what the kids are doing to better plan ahead how to control external or internal distractions that keep kids from staying focused. 

Attention-honing activities

Another way to strengthen attention span among kids is to implement attention-honing exercises. Memorization is one activity that they can do. Another is through critical thinking exercises. Critical thinking entails that a person should be a good observer. For instance, ask a child to watch a movie closely, to take note of the characters and the storyline. At the end of the movie, ask them questions about what happened in the film, who the characters are, the place, the plot, etc. Repeating these exercises will help them form a habit later on in life to observe and pay close attention to their environment. 

Ensure healthy overall well-being

This means making sure that the child is overall healthy, both mind and body. Kids sometimes who lack focus also lack proper nutrition. If the body is not functioning properly, it would ultimately affect how the brain works or the overall mental health. The brain needs oxygen for it to function properly. A person needs to exercise for better oxygen circulation to boost the oxygen level. And for the body to adapt well to any exercise, it needs to take in proper nutrition through a healthy diet. Having a good night’s sleep is equally important, so the child must get enough rest and sleep.

At the end of the day, reinforcing a kid’s attention span can be challenging but not an impossibility. The approach should be give-and-take; parents or adults need to pay attention to the kids so that the kids can follow that model of approach and ultimately pay attention to their environment. It’s a two-way relationship but definitely worth it once the kids become mindful and responsible adults someday. 

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