Help! My Child is Easily Distracted

by Jimmie

There are things you can do to help your child not be distracted from his homework or homeschool assignments.

You've probably already tried reward systems and plenty of punishments. Those don't really work to address the distractions your child faces. You need strategies to help your child focus.

Based on my years both as a classroom teacher and as a homeschool mom, I have some ideas to reduce distractions. If one thing doesn't work, don't give up. Try something else. And remember that some children find best results with a combination of aids. 

By all means get feedback from your child. Help her to identify her attention problem and its causes. Is it visual cues, auditory elements, or her vivid imagination that distract her the most? What would help her reduce those distractions? Show her this article and see if she likes any of the ideas here. Giving her ownership in the process demonstrates her responsibility to pay attention and your willingness to help her.

Keeping a Child Focused on Schoolwork

When He is So Easily Distracted

What Is the Biggest Problem?

What Keeps Your Child from Paying Attention?

Reducing Visual Distractions

For visual children, limiting what they see can help minimize distractions and increase focus. Using blinders probably won't work. But there are things you can do.

Sit where your child sits and look around. Is there anything you could change to take away distractions? 

  • Pull a curtain closed.
  • Rotate the chair towards the wall.
  • Turn off the computer monitor.

Sometimes in our efforts to make a cute homeschool room, we have hung too many colorful posters and bulletin boards. Those things can be counterproductive for a child who is easily distracted by sights. Keep the learning area simple and free from clutter.

Once you've made those easy changes, consider physical barriers to their range of vision. Keep them "in the box" with a reading carrel. A carrel has a high front and wraps around the sides of the desk, forming a little study nook that keeps out distracting sights.

If a reading carrel is out of your budget, what about a DIY option? Try a cardboard display board that can be folded up and stored under a bed when school is over. 

Whether your carrel is wood or cardboard it can also be used to display reminders to stay on task and helpful reference sheets. But don't make it too fancy or it can become a distraction itself.

Reading Carrels

From Most Expensive to Least Expensive
Floor Carrel
Balt, Inc.
Only $226.88
Quality Study Carrel 25X18X17 6 By Pacon
BAZIC Tri-Fold Corrugated Presentation Board, 36 x 48 Inch
Bazic Stationery/Bangkit USA Corporation
Only $22.33

How Should Distracted Kids be Handled?

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Reducing Auditory Distractions

Auditory learners are easily distracted by sounds. Reducing excess noise is essential, but you cannot control the barking dog, leaf blowers, and trash truck in the neighborhood.

Defend your child from distracting sounds with sound reducing headphones or ear plugs. Inferior ear protection can seem to actually magnify some sounds, so invest in the best products you can afford. 

Some students actually find that adding noise drowns out other sounds and helps them focus. Try these options:

  • white noise such as a fan
  • water splashing in a tabletop fountain or fish tank
  • background music

Canceling and Muffling Distracting Sounds

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Other Tips

A Timer

Use a timer to set a length of time to work, uninterrupted. A timer helps a child to realize that an end is in sight. (And mom can't forget to say "stop" if the timer is going to signal the end.) For many children, the act of setting and turning off the timer gives them a sense of control that helps them focus.

A Checklist

Similar to the timer, a daily checklist helps a child know how much more is left to do. Giving her control over marking off her completed tasks is a great motivator to pay attention and work hard.

When your child is distracted, you don't have to nag. Just gently ask, "How are you doing on your checklist?" That prod puts the burden back on the child to see what is left to do and get focused on doing it.

Increase Sensory Input

Some children have a hard time focusing when they have to sit still. In that case, let them move as they do their work. It may annoy you, but if it helps your child focus mentally, do your best to tolerate the fidgeting.

Try chewing gum or a squishy toy to manipulate. Sometimes adding that element of touch and taste is enough to help a child focus.

Breaks & Motion

Be sure that your lessons are not too long. Short lessons are better for learning. In between lessons, encourage physical exercise. Draw a card from the FitDeck and do the exercise shown. Or make up your own activities -- jumping jacks, sit ups, hall sprints, etc.

Manage Fidgety Kids with These Activity Cards

Physical Exercise Helps Some Children Focus
FitDeck Bodyweight
FitDeck, Inc.
Only $89.99

A Reminder

As difficult as it seems to accept now, your children will grow up. You will not always fight the battle for their attention to school work. Many children mature right out of attention "problems." 

And believe it or not, you will remember these crazy days with a smile and a sigh. So as you search for solutions to attention problems, remember to appreciate that distracted bundle of joy that you have today.

Updated: 02/21/2012, Jimmie
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Victoria on 12/03/2012

I have a ten-year-old that I want to feed to the gators! I realized though while reading this we have ear muffs left from a visit to a nascar track, two pair, maybe I can wear one, and he can wear the other, then we won't get on each others nerves anymore.

tandemonimom on 06/27/2011

Very interesting issue! I love your advice to get the child's input as to what is distracting and how to manage it.

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