5 Tips for Children: Increase Mental Focus, Attention, Energy & Capacity, Part II
In 5 Tips For Children: Increase Mental Focus, Attention, Energy & Capacity, Part II, I offer five additional easy-to-implement, inexpensive and fun tips to increase attention span, mental energy and focus. As in the previous post, implementing just one of these tips will have its benefits; implementing more than one or all will have greater benefit. I recommend you begin implementing the tip you find easiest from this post or the previous post and then building from there.
1. Drink water
The human brain is made up of approximately 90% water. Drinking plenty of clean, plain water helps keep the brain well-hydrated and functioning at an optimal level. Many studies have shown that drinking water aids brain functioning and that lack of brain hydration leads to most temporary difficulties in concentration and focus.
There is some debate over how much water is enough, whether we need to get all of our water from drinking it or could we get it from a combination of drinking and eating foods with a high water content. While bodies differ in this requirement, a safe estimate for children under eight is 6 to 8 glasses per day and 8 or more for older children. This also depends on the outside temperature and the child’s activity level. If your child is at school, aim for your child to have about 3 to 4 glasses during the school day. It is a good idea to send your child to school with a water bottle they can drink from throughout the day. It is best to provide them with clean, filtered water. A glass water bottle with a protective cover is a great option since it easy to clean and there is no worry about toxins leeching into the water, and stainless steel water bottles are also a great choice. You can make the entire process fun for you and your child by selecting a cool water bottle to bring to school.
Anything added to the water is just another substance the body has to break down. If your child has an intense aversion to drinking plain water, try adding a tiny amount of stevia to sweeten it a bit or a small amount of low sugar, 100% organic not-from-concentrate fruit juice with no additives, such as apple or cranberry to their water until they get used to drinking it. You can decrease this amount weekly until finally your child is drinking just plain water. Drinking water is necessary for overall health and will help with brain functioning, focus and concentration.
2. Spend time outdoors
Spending time outdoors — as well as being good for emotional and physical well-being — has a positive effect on mental functioning. Richard Louv has written extensively on the link between spending time outdoors and its positive effects. He suggests that some attention disorders, as well as obesity and depression, are a result of a lack of time spent outdoors and a connection with nature. I highly recommend his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.
Experts recommend getting at least fifteen minutes of sunlight (without sunscreen) per day to keep Vitamin D levels at a healthy level. On the days when the sun is not shining, spending even a few minutes outdoors still has its benefits and positive effects on focus, attention, mental energy and capacity. In most instances, dressing appropriately for the weather will make spending time in the outdoors safe and enjoyable. Of course, discretion should be used in cases of extreme weather conditions. Tune in to your local weather station for updates and suggestions.
Spending time outdoors does not have to include intense physical activity. In fact, spending time observing and using all of our senses in the outdoors has been shown to increase focus, attention, creativity and overall brain activity, not to mention what it can do to ignite a child’s imagination and curiosity. If the young person likes sitting and thinking best while outdoors, encouraging this behavior will have the same benefits as intense physical activity.
3. New activities
Trying something new, especially activities that use both left- and right-brain applications, increases the capacity of the brain and encourages the brain to form new neurological pathways. While routines are great and a necessary part of daily activities, trying something new encourages new thought patterns and is similar to problem solving in activating areas of the brain. Trying something new can take the form of simply reading something in a different genre than usual, tinkering with puzzles, playing a different type of board game or even taking a different route to school or home.
Trying an entirely new activity, besides being fun and perhaps leading to a new interest, will have added benefit on focus, attention and brain capacity. Young people are curious by nature. When your child shows an interest in a new activity, take advantage of the opportunity when possible, even if it winds up being a short-term interest.
4. Build or Create Something
Building or creating something are perhaps some of the best ways to utilize both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. In general, building or creating something entails planning and analyzing (left brain) and visualizing the whole and synthesizing (right brain). Some parents may be thinking, I have watched my child build something, and it seemed there was no plan at all. From an adult perspective, this may have some truth; however, when a child begins building or creating something, they generally start with a vision and devise some sort of plan, no matter how rudimentary, to go about bringing that vision to fruition.
It does not matter much what is being built or created or what the outcome is. Adults can help this process along best by putting aside their own expectations and allowing the young person to work out the process on his or her own. Forget about coloring inside the lines if the young person wants to go outside them. This engages the analytical and critical (left brain) processes of the brain, as well the intuitive and holistic processes (right brain).
If this process happens often enough, it will become easier, more fluid and more satisfying. The more it happens, the bigger the impact on concentration, focus and brain capacity. For some great ideas to engage your children in creative activities, check out The Toddlers Busy Book: 365 Creative Games and Activities to Keep Your 1 1/2- to 3-Year-Old Busy or Creative Activities for Young Children.
Yes, daydreaming. Daydreaming often is looked upon as frivolous and as something reserved for the lazy, unfocused and unproductive or only for the very young. However, daydreaming is inevitable and nearly impossible to stave off. Some experts estimate that we spend about one-third of our lifetime daydreaming. It would seem that something so hard-wired into our brains is there due to its many benefits. So there is no cause to worry if a child daydreams. You can take solace in the fact that daydreaming is part of being human and is necessary for a healthy, functioning brain.
Daydreaming has been shown by psychologists and neuroscientists to be a great way to allow the brain to process complex thoughts and problems. It has also been shown to activate many areas of the brain, and sometimes additional areas are activated during times of intense focus and concentration. Daydreaming can happen at any time and often takes place during a routine task, such as putting on shoes. These are often the times when the best ideas happen or the solution to a complex problem takes place.
Daydreaming actually boosts productivity. Letting the mind wander can help make thoughts more clear and focused, and as stated above, activates other areas of the brain. Researchers monitoring brain activity before, during and after daydreaming found that during and after daydreaming the areas of the brain responsible for creativity and problem solving were more active. Participants also reported feeling more refreshed and having more mental clarity, focus and energy. Daydreaming has also been shown to help with relaxation and to relieve boredom.
This is not to suggest that all young people should do all day is daydream and that there aren’t times when focus and attention are needed. Daydreaming is not the sole domain of the slacker, loafer or silly-heart; it is a necessary process for a creative, productive, balanced, entrepreneurial healthy brain.
Points to Remember
- The above tips are suggestions to help increase your child’s mental focus, energy, capacity and concentration. They are not intended as medical advice or as a replacement of or a course of treatment. If your child has a confirmed or suspected medical condition, please consult your medical practitioner before implementing any of these suggestions.
- Include your child in the decision-making process and also be observant and in tune to what your child enjoys doing. None of these tips should be forced. The best results will be from building upon what is already taking place throughout the course of a typical day or week.
- As with any change in routine or trying something new, start slow and make sure you can sustain the change. One of the biggest reasons for not sticking to a plan or proposed change is doing too much too soon. You and your child can always revisit these tips at a later date when the time seems right.
- Have fun with these tips! Implement the ones you think are the easiest and most likely to be sustainable, and give yourself and your child break if some of them don’t work for you.
~ Article by Peter Berg of Education Transformation.org ~
***For more exciting information on Peter Berg, please visit IHH’s Guest Authors page.***