I recently came across this article on Exercise & ADHD. As a former teacher I have very strong opinions on this. I have taught in various settings: special education, intermediate general education, Pre-Kindergarten, and have spent time in Kindergarten through fifth grade as a literacy coach. I am by no means an expert and I understand that there are a variety of studies out there. I also know that some children do need medication.
As a parent, I believe in medication as a last resort after all other options have been tried. As a teacher, I have had success with exercise in the classroom for those children that are not medicated and with those children who are not diagnosed, but struggle with concentration. I am also a strong believer that we all have trouble concentrating when we don’t move and expend energy. Have you ever tried to sit still for 90-minutes of reading?
Here are some ideas to help with your child with concentration both at school and at home:
1. Before school- Just fifteen minutes of movement before school can help set up your child up for a successful day at school. Yes, this will require getting up earlier and making sure you are prepared in the morning. Jumping jacks, squats, windmills, and inchworms are all things your children can do at home. You could also put on some music and have them dance. If it is warm outside, head to the bus stop 15-20 minutes early and jog, walk, or do an obstacle course.
2. Brain breaks- Break breaks are for both parents and teachers. If you are a parent, brain breaks are a great way to help with that lack of concentration during homework time and teachers can use them in the classroom throughout the day. When I taught I had a jar of popsicle sticks with different exercises written on each stick. Throughout the day we would draw a few popsicle sticks and complete the exercise or movement on the stick. This would last anywhere from two to four minutes. Some school administrators would say if you do this five times per day, that is a loss of 20 instructional minutes. I feel that I gained more instructional time because my students were focused for the majority of the day because of these.
3. Incorporating movement in instruction- Whether it is at home or in school, make your child move as they learn. Let them stand while doing homework or bounce on an exercise ball. For teachers, step out of the box and post your questions or math problems around the room having students move after answering each question or problem. Let students stand up, take a step forward, or do three jumping jacks when they have a correct answer. I know this may seem like it is creating a chaotic classroom, but for me, it was less chaotic than having several students off task and not concentrating.
4. After school activity- I know many parents have their children do homework as soon as they get home and walk in the door. Do you get home from work at night and immediately log back on and work? Just like adults, kids need time to decompress. Use the same approach as you do in the morning and let them burn some energy before tackling their homework. Screen time is not burning off energy and will not help with concentration. Make sure they are moving and increasing their heart rate during the time.
5. Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition- Nutrition seems so simple, but can be so difficult. Is what you are feeding your child playing a role in his/ her ability to concentrate? When we think of nutrition and concentration, we automatically think of sugar. Sugar does play a big role. However, the lack of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables can also play a role in a child’s (and any human, really) ability or inability to concentration.
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