In today’s busy world, children are bombarded with information from a variety of sources. It takes an incredible amount of mental energy to stay focused, pay attention and absorb as much educational content as possible, whether it be online or from a textbook.
Children are intrinsically, by their sheer nature, inquisitive and busy individuals! Even as adults, we find it hard to engage and stay focused for long periods of time, so expecting children to sit and focus for lengthy periods of time is a BIG ask!
Remember every child is different. Some can sit and learn for longer periods than others; some have the attention span of a gnat and require a different approach altogether. The key is to understand how and when your child learns and incorporate strategies that work best for them! Learning should be fun and engaging - not cumbersome and seen as a punishment.
Creating the right learning environment
- Routine is very important as it encourages discipline and will help prepare your child for later grades when they will have to put more time into learning.
- Decide on a time and place best suited to learning with your child. The area should remind them of learning and should not be cluttered with too many pictures or posters that can distract them.
- The learning area should have a desk that is big enough for learning materials such as pencils, books, dictionaries and reference material.
- The lighting should provide adequate visibility, but must not be too bright or dim.
Personalised learning plan
In order to ensure that a child’s environment and routine promote an optional learning zone, parents should consider the following factors:
- Where does your child learn best? Is this at the dining room table or perhaps in a study or office? It is important to find somewhere quiet, that does not have a lot of thru-traffic or added distractions. Areas where other family members are also working and having meetings does not bode well for online learning.
- What time of the day works best for your child to learn? Outside of scheduled online lessons, is your child a morning learner or later in the day learner?
- How does your child learn best? Do they learn better on their own, with a partner, with another adult or perhaps with a brother or sister?
- How frequently should your child take breaks?. Children cannot be expected to have uninterrupted focus time for hours on end. In the same breath, too many breaks can be disruptive to a good flow of learning. Parents should determine how often their child should schedule their breaks and also determine what they should do when they have a learning break.
- What resources and tools does your child need for their learning environment to be effective and proactive?
- Creating a ‘Learning Plan’ for you to complete with the child will help set realistic learning objectives and goals to work towards. Children learn better when they want to learn and when they are self-motivated to do so. Having their buy-in will help them to commit to the learning plan.
Before setting up a daily learning timetable, ask your child when they feel at the optimum to learn. Some children prefer to take breaks often, while others are in the “learning mode" and prefer to learn for longer periods of time. This will also depend on the age of the child. It is crucial that your child contributes to setting up a timetable. It makes them assume ownership. If they do not, they will feel as if it is being forced on them.
Some research suggests study periods of 40 minutes; however, it may be that 25 minutes of studying followed by a five-minute break is better. Most children have a shorter memory span, and breaking the timetable into half-hour chunks makes it easier to manage. Decide together what the child will do on their breaks – it is best to get outside and get some fresh air and run about, as opposed to sitting and watching TV or playing video games. Use a timer so your child knows when it is time to return to learning.
Banning or taking something away that the learner enjoys doing, like playing on the Playstation, will only create hatred for studying. It is about balancing out their needs and wants to allow the learner to understand the concept of work and reward. Let them understand that they can have 30 minutes on their Playstation later, if they can get a few hours of learning completed. Completing a ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ timetable with your child can help alleviate the battle of wills, that often takes place over learning.
Make sure little learners have a healthy brain snack and go to the toilet before they log on for a lesson – schedule a snack/movement break 15 minutes before a scheduled online lesson. Ensure snacks are nutritious and wholesome to provide sustained mental energy. Foods such as nuts, biltong, fruit, raw veggie sticks and hummus are great snack options. It is also important to encourage your child to drink water and stay hydrated.
Top tips for managing hyperactive kids
In summary, it is important to ensure that you understand your child’s unique learning preferences in order to personalise their learning environment and study schedule to their needs. Here are our top tips to assist with managing fidgeting kids and their learning routine.
- Ensure that the child is fed, drinks enough water and takes a bathroom break prior to logging in for their lessons.
- Schedule frequent movement and refocusing breaks, preferably outside in the fresh air.
- Make sure that the learning area is equipped with everything that they need and is well ventilated to stimulate alertness.
- Set a timer to assist with tracking the duration of activities and to ensure that the child is able to take regular study breaks.
- Set up a star chart and reminders for little learners to stay motivated.
- Remove extra stimuli and distractions that are not required for learning.
- Provide lots of praise and positive affirmations to help keep the child motivated.
Every child develops differently and at their own pace. Whilst fidgeting is very normal for most kids if it is not managed effectively it can lead to long term problems and inhibit learning. Often, fidgeting can be a response to anxiety and stress and can become a barrier to learning. If the fidgeting is persistent and becomes problematic, it is advisable to seek further guidance from an Educational Psychologist who can assess and evaluate if further professional help is required.