How To Help Your Child Focus!

focuspocus-largeKayla 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!

More Resources:


Reading by the ColorsReading by the Colors[/one-third-first][one-third]

The Light Barrier - A Color Solution for Your ChildThe Light Barrier: A Color Solution to Your Child’s Light-based Reading Difficulties[/one-third][one-third]

101Attention GamesAttention Games: 101 Fun, Easy Games That Help Kids Learn To Focus[/one-third]




  1. There was a woman in college who used to wear green tinted glasses to read… now I know why! Thank you for these tips. I plan to buy the color overlays for my daughter- if nothing else, they are interesting, and hopefully they will help her stay focused to do her homework.



    • I used the yellow overlay for my son, it really helped. Also, a stress ball to squeeze in math class, and velcro inside the desk in another class worked well. Teachers are usually very accomodating to these tips. Good luck!

  2. These are great tips.

    I’m always unsure whether to have the kids start homework asap when they get home or after dinner… it always takes so LOOOONG!

    • As a teacher I feel it is important for children (elementary, middle, and high school) to do something other than sitting down again immediately after school. They need to enjoy life in a manner that is nonacademic such as a brisk walk, bike ride, jumping, etc for about 30 to 45 minutes and then go into a calming routine for 10 minutes to get their body & mind ready for another round of academics. Of course, if that is done between school & home with sports, day care free play, etc. then it has been taken care of.

  3. Stress balls are great as well as those small massage space ships that vibrate (some with a pull string,some run on a AA battery)They always helped my student stay in his carpet spot during story time or a content lesson.

  4. The idea for looking at the questions at the end of a lesson first is GREAT!! I wish I’d thought of that when I was in school! (years and years ago…) Will be sure to implement with our 10 year old.

  5. Dena Gottlieb says:

    Thanks for posting those great tips.
    I have seen quite a few successes with helping kids with ADHD and ADD issues using Marvalous Omega 3 capsules. The capsules contain the oil of the Salvia Sclarea plant which grows in Argentina and in Israel. This oil contains 50% ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid – vegetarian Omega 3) and another 100 active ingredients like CoQ10, Vitamin E, Sclareol and many others. I have personally met children who got off Ritalin by taking the Omega 3 capsules. I have also met adults who are able, after many years, to finally read a book!

  6. Sandy Tosta says:

    Great ideas! Parents should know that difficulties processing black letters on white paper happens not just with reading textbooks but also reading numbers, musical notes and copying information from textbooks. This perceptual processing problem is called Irlen Syndrome, and thousands of children and adults are helped using Irlen Spectral Filters. You can learn more in Reading By The Colors.

    • Glad you brought this up because the Irlen Syndrome screening really does work and it helps one know what the most beneficial color overlay is. In very layman terms and working from recollection, each person responds best to a certain color. Thus just picking colors may not do the trick.

  7. As a 5th grade teacher, I strongly recommend reading questions prior to reading the text. It has ben proven helpful to many students.

  8. Thanks for all the tips and insights, Ellen and everyone who replied to this post. It’s always nice to hear how teachers think and because we can learn from them.

    • I want to second that- I truly appreciate all of these comments. By the way, Kayla has a 60-day money-back guarantee on her book, so there’s no risk. About 75% of Kayla’s suggestions worked well for my family- and I’d have paid $150 for just one or two of those ideas by consulting with a professional!

  9. I teach 6th and 7th grade and reminded students of reading the questions first today! I noticed that many children do this on their own and progress much faster with the work.

  10. Ok, this is the definitive book for information about how people process different colors differently, and how to work with color overlays: Reading By The Colors- by Helen Irlen

  11. Gail @cheap home decorating ideas says:

    I love to burn candles so i am gonna try the peppermint,lemon and cinnamon.My lttle granddaughter is three and loves gum so using this as an incentive may work great.
    Thanks for the tips.

  12. Thank you for these tips they are so useful as my son has adhd and mild dyslexia and these are simple techniques to use but in the moment you dont think about the best way sometimes. I will definately look into your book now!

  13. Jill Snider says:

    As a school Occupational Therapist, I often recommend these tools and others to support students’ needs especially related to sensory processing. Most school districts have an O.T. or access to a therapist who can assist with evaluating and/or recommending strategies to improve students’ ability to focus and attend to the task in front of them.
    I plan to see if our lending library has a copy of this book-if not, I will get one.