It’s been a rough couple of years and everyone’s been thrown for a loop. Heading back to school has been a lifeline for most families but it’s not without its challenges. Wondering how to get kids to listen and focus? You’re not alone!
Kids entering grade one are experiencing a huge shift in the style of learning from their previous experience in kindergarten (which is more play-based) or at home, which was screen-based (and brutal!).
Children are now expected to learn in a more traditional school setting – sitting and listening to the teacher and showing their understanding through tests and deliverables.
Adapting to this new method of learning can be challenging for kids, but parents can teach their child the important foundation skills of active listening and focusing to help them better succeed in school, and in life.
Tips for How to Get Kids to Listen & Focus:
1. Listen to podcasts
Podcasts are not just for adults anymore. There are lots of fun, playful and interesting podcasts specifically created for kids that teach cool facts or tell stories. There are podcasts covering a range of topics from sports to animals, fantasy, and the world – so it’s easy to find something that will appeal to each child.
While they are entertaining, podcasts also have many developmental benefits such as enhancing listening skills, promoting imaginative thinking, and teaching kids interesting facts.
Next time you are driving your kids around, put on a podcast. Let your kids listen and then engage in conversation about what they heard. Not only will this be an enjoyable way for them to pass the time, but it will also help them develop their active listening skills, practice retaining the information, and sharing back what they learned. All helpful skills for when their teacher asks them to answer questions about the day’s lesson.
2. Tell your kids a joke, sports stat, or cool animal fact
Kids love to be experts by sharing interesting information with others in their world. This makes them feel like a contributing member to the group, helping them fulfill their need to have autonomy.
Take the time to teach children fun facts, sports highlights, or funny jokes (whatever they are into) and encourage them to share their new knowledge with others – a friend, their grandparents, or a teacher. By doing this you are encouraging your child to listen and practice using their memory – a skill that is relied upon a lot in school to help gauge what kids know.
Your child will also feel very proud when they remember their newest knock-knock joke or wacky animal fact at the next family gathering and get a room full of giggles. This positive response will also encourage them to want to focus when people share information with them, because they will enjoy the feeling of relaying new information with others.
3. Play board games
The tradition of family game night is not just for fun and family connection. Board games have many developmental benefits for kids – they promote language skills, social skills such as patience and cooperation, executive functioning skills like strategy, as well as help lengthen a child’s attention span.
Playing a board game allows children to practice their persistence as they need to stick with the game until the end; sometimes the motivation of winning helps with this. Games also encourage children to work on their focus and memory skills as being successful in the game may require kids to build on their last move or be aware of their opponents game. All of these developmental skills improve children’s abilities to focus in school.
Some of my favourite games that practice focus are – Beadbanz, Memory, Battleship, and Clue.
4. Give multi-step-instructions
When you ask your child to do something include 2- or 3-steps in your ask. This will encourage your child to listen for the duration of your ask. It will also help them practice their memory skills – they will need to remember each step from start to finish. A tip for this, don’t start with long multi-step-instruction, gradually build up to them. Start with 2-step instructions (“it’s time to go to the park – please put on your shoes and coat.”) Once your child has success with this, add on more steps.
5. Encourage physical activity before school
Research has shown that when children participate in physical activity prior to learning they feel more ready to learn. Studies have also shown that including physical activity at the beginning of a child’s school day has positive benefits on their learning throughout the day.
Providing children with an opportunity to be active before they start school might help kiddos get their sillies out and be more ready to focus once the school bell has rung.
An easy way to do this is to incorporate movement into the commute – walking, scooting, or biking to class. Or arrive 20 minutes early so they can run around or shoot some hoops before their school day begins.