by Jeanne Williams

Some kids can sit at a desk for an hour and plough through a hundred math problems without being distracted at all. But for other kids this is an impossible task to even contemplate. For those kids, here are some ideas that might help them focus on their homework. There are a lot of ideas here, because no one thing works for everyone. One way to use this list is to show it to your child, and allow them to help choose a couple of ideas that THEY think would be helpful. The fact that they chose it can be as helpful as the idea itself!

1. Allow him to spend some time playing (but not electronic games) and exercising – preferably outside, before starting homework.

2. Or, take a brisk walk just before doing homework.

3. Have her stand up and do jumping jacks, push ups, or sit ups for 2 minutes after every 20 minutes of homework.

4. Get him an exercise ball to sit on while he’s doing homework (this is proven to help kids with ADHD, and it is especially helpful to kids who tend to tip their chairs back and occasionally fall over!)

5. Put homework on a surface that is chest high to your child so she can work on it while standing up.

6. Put half of the work on a chest high surface, and the other half at a desk or table, and have him switch every time he completes X number of problems/sentences, or whatever he’s working on.

7. Put a paper on her homework table that has 2 columns – one column labelled “on task” and the other column labelled “not on task. “ Say “beep!” at random intervals, and have her put a check mark in the appropriate column, noting whether she was on task at the moment you beeped (this may increase his awareness of what she is doing). Don’t comment on whether she is on task or not – let her notice for herself. Try to time your “random” beeps so that she gets enough in the “off task” column to be aware of her actions, but enough (even more) in the on task column to feel good about herself. Feeling good about what you have accomplished is a much better motivator than feeling bad about your mess-ups.

8. Put a paper in front of him, and tell him that every time you notice him working without daydreaming for 3 minutes straight, you will put a smiley face on the paper.

9. Buy her a pair of 3 or 5 pound weights, and instruct her: every 15 minutes, put your pencil down and lift the weights 10 times, then get back to work for another 15 minutes.

10. Have him do homework in a location that has as few distractions as possible.

11. Break assignments down into smaller tasks, and have her do something at the end of each task (see exercise suggestions above), or just report to you at the end of each task.

12. Find a way to turn the task into physical exercise. For spelling words, for example, play catch and have him say a letter with each throw – or with each kick of the soccer ball.

13. Start at a number of your choosing (let’s say, 50), and tell her that every time you see her off-task, you are going to slowly count down. “49 ... 48 ... 47,” but you won’t count as long as she is on task. When the task is done, whatever number you get to could equal how many minutes you will do something special with her, or how many minutes of video game playing she will get on the weekend, or some other special treat that you think up.

14. Let him listen to music while he works. Contrary to common sense, some kids actually do better work if they have some background noise than if it is completely silent. If your child wants to try this, tell them that it is an experiment, and if they get their work done faster and better you will continue to allow it. Trying to prove that it works for them may be all the motivation they need to stay focused longer!

15. And perhaps this should have been number one – ask them for suggestions – pick a time when you are both in a good mood to ask, “what do you think would help you focus more on your homework?” An interesting piece of research that I've come across is that kids with ADHD actually benefit from spending time in nature - in green environments. In the research, kids experience a greater reduction of ADHD symptoms when they played in a park full of grass and trees than when they played on a concrete playground!

© 2008 by Jeanne Williams

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