Kayla Fay, a noted educator, wrote a valuable ebook called “Focus Pocus” which contains ONE HUNDRED ways for you to help your child focus and stay on task. Kayla kindly gave me permission to share several useful tips with you here… these are my favorites. Read the book and see which ideas will become your family’s best tricks!
1. Colored overlays. Use colored plastic filters to help kids who have difficulty processing the light wavelengths of black letters on white paper. (Remember learning about rods and cones in biology?!) For such kids, sometimes it helps to put a sheet of transparent, colored film over their paper.
These ‘colored overlays’ change the wavelength of the light that enters the eye, helping to clear perception. Reading specialists often use colored overlays. Read more about them in the book The Light Barrier: A Color Solution to Your Child’s Light-based Reading Difficulties. And Reading By The Colors by Helen Irlen.
2. Provide something to stroke or manipulate while your child is listening. At home, school, church, or the library, kids have a hard time paying attention while a story is read or a lesson is delivered. Focus may improve if kids can stroke a strip of Velcro stuck under the desk, manipulate playdough or chenille wire, squeeze a stress ball, or doodle with a pencil.
3. Invest in a balance chair or cushion. These ingenious devices allow the body to move without moving the chair. Some parents buy them for homework time. Schools sometimes outfit an entire classroom with balance chairs, but more often they add them as a modification or an accommodation in an IEP or 504. You might find yourself wanting one for yourself. They are great for posture and ergonomics, so go ahead – get yourself one!
4. Before bed routine. Have a launching pad for each child. Put out all clothes – socks and shoes, jackets and mittens, and every single thing they will need for the next day. This includes lunch money, signed notes, gym clothes, hockey sticks, homework folder (with the homework IN it), and that all important toy for show and tell.
Do not let anything wait until the morning except for items that have to be refrigerated. You can even include a portable breakfast – a banana, a granola bar, and a box of milk. Our family used lateral filing cabinets for the launching pads. Everything for the next day went in, but it could be closed for the sake of looking neat.
5. Provide the scent of peppermint, cinnamon or lemon. Use aromatic candles – peppermint, lemon, and cinnamon. These scents are all refreshing to the nose – and to the attention span. Candy drops in these flavors are especially good for long tests like the SAT. Some chewing gum or breath mints boast very strong scents and flavors. They can double as incentives: “Finish reading this section and you get an Altoid.”
6. Read the questions before the chapter. When your teacher assigns end of the chapter/section questions, make sure your child reads the questions before reading the material. This helps him know what to look for as he reads. If you have a scanner or a copier at your house, copy the questions. He can jot down short answers, or mark multiple choice questions as he goes – no flipping back and forth necessary!
It’s a great way to help your child pay attention to what material needs to be in focus. We purchased an all in one printer/copier/fax/scanner a few of years ago, and it has been one of the best investments we’ve ever made. I absolutely cannot imagine life without it now. We wore out our first one – and bought another the same day!
For 94 more kid-tested ideas, get Kayla’s book right now and look forward to smoother sailing!