Do you ever ask yourself, “What happened with this child?” I have recently had many mothers talk with me about concerns for their young children (ages 4-8) who just can’t seem to be still and concentrate to get school assignments finished.
“I don’t know what’s happened. I haven’t had trouble with any of the the other four, older siblings. They were all focused and self-disciplined. But this one, I just can’t seem to do anything with him.” This has been a pretty common statement lately.
There could be several reasons for this. I have found over the years one of the main reasons is nutrition. Childhood development specialists and doctors have known for quite some time that red dye can have a huge effect on the behavior of children (and some adults). Food sensitivities can cause hyperactivity in children. They make them “shakey” and the child doesn’t realize this, but has the feeling that he has to move. Hormones, pesticides, and other chemicals used in food production has a huge bearing on our children. I have recently learned about metal toxicity in our bodies. The overabundance of certain metals and minerals can cause children to act with too much energy, to act out in anger, and even have violent outbursts. So, nutrition could certainly be an issue. However, many of the mothers who are voicing these concerns are into healthy nutrition for their family, preparing organic meals, healthy snacks, no dyes, and growing some of their own food. There has been much discussion lately on the impact farming chemicals have on children’s health, with the rise in autism, ADHD, and other behavioral diagnosis.
Another justification for behavior is that after 6, 4, even two previous children, we just get tired and we “loosen” up a bit. I have noticed, after being in the classroom for a couple of decades and having all of the siblings in some families, over the years, a lessening of strictness in parents, a tiredness. This could be an explanation, but even with that, there has to be something to help.
One more aspect I want to point out is that some children are just normal children. Many times, because our first and even second children show advancement in academics, we expect that from all of our children, when in fact, our other children are not “advanced”. That is not an insult, it is not saying you are a bad parent, it is simply saying, “You have a child who is a child! A child created by God, to act like a child!” Our society tells us that if our child is not reading at the age of three or four, she must have a problem. This is so very far from the truth. In the average development of a child, the perfect age to begin teaching children to read is about seven. That is when the brain begins to see that this symbol (a letter) can actually stand for something (one or more sounds). This is why most children are not taught music until close to this age. There are exceptions, but for the most part, this has been proven time and again.
An important thing to remember is your child’s attention span should be in a range from one minute per year of age to one minute per year of age times 2. So, a 6 year-old child should be able to be still from 6-12 minutes. When I tell a parent this, the next response is, “But she will sit and play a video game or watch a television show for an hour!” My answer is, “Yes.” Have you noticed how video games change tasks with each level or scenario? Have you noticed how often sets and scenes change in television shows? Why do you think most children’s shows only last 20-23 minutes? If you still have programming that has commercials, you will notice those commercials come every few minutes. Have you noticed your child get up and move during those commercials, or dance and sing along with the jingle? If it is a movie, a child will move from sitting on the floor, to the sofa, to laying down, etc. You may also notice a child doing something else while watching the movie, or having hands or feet moving at all times. Child development specialists are often employed by these gaming and media companies to make sure the product will appeal to children. Often, these “hired specialists” are children. There are even media companies that will pay, through grants, to have day care and preschool programs for the sole purpose of developing new products appealing to children.
So, for the child that just will not sit and work, I have used many concepts over the years. One I want to share with you today. These are often called “brain breaks”. You can do a Pinterest search and find many ideas for these. The idea is to have your child work for the amount of time s/he can be successful and then allow for a “fun” activity. These activities are sometimes academic and sometimes active. They last for about one minute. I saw dramatic differences in focus and behavior when I used this concept. The idea is for your child to complete an assignment within a certain amount of time. At the end of that time, your child may “pull from a hat” an activity, do the activity, and do another timed lesson.
There are a few things that must happen for this idea to be successful: consistency, excitement, and challenge. I am attaching a list of activities. You can choose to present these in many different ways or choose one way and stick to it. I have printed these on colored paper, laminated, cut apart, and placed in a jar, in a hat, in a sock, and the children chose. I have glued/taped them to large colored craft sticks and put those in a jar. I have made a colored graph (also attached with instructions). I have used wood blocks with activities taped to the sides and the children roll the “big wooden dice”. Use any idea that works for you.
Set your timer with the number of minutes your child is old (a five year old is timed at 5 minutes) and assign work that you KNOW can be accomplished in that time frame. When your child accomplishes that, do an activity and set the timer again, this time adding a problem or two extra. You want to gradually increase time and work until your child is working successfully at twice the time of his age (A seven year old will be working about 14-15 minutes.) For some children this could be accomplished within a few days, but for others, it may take a month or longer. You will have to work to see what is best for your child. This can be done successfully with children up to 3rd or 4th grade. It has been my experience that younger children will want to participate too, so have activities available for the little ones. If you have older siblings, get them involved to help build the excitement.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask for more explanation.
Click Brain Breaks for the list of Brain Break Ideas.
Click BrainBreak Grid for the Break Break Grid. If you would like for me to program a grid for you, with random activities, just send me a message or leave it in my comments. I will contact you and make one to fit your needs.
I hope you enjoy the activities. Remember, your child will be even more excited it you do the activities right along with her/him!!!
UPDATE: The downloadable Brain Breaks book is finally finished. It is available in my etsy shop. You will find all of the activities listed here, plus many more, over 50. Also included in the book is tips for helping out children (and adults) who are focused challenged. Check it out “here”.