Helping Kids Focus on Homework

Everyone struggles sometimes with focusing on a task required by their jobs or studies. It’s no wonder that after a long day at school, kids, tweens, and teens may have difficulty staying focused on their homework! As an adult, what can you do to help?

What do the experts say? In this short video featuring Marriage and Family Therapist Susan Stiffelman, you’ll learn about a few simple strategies that help improve focus on homework.

Building on Stiffelman’s advice, here are a few additional strategies that Pima County Library staff members have used to successfully boost students’ ability to focus on their homework:

Feed the brain!

It may seem obvious, but it’s very difficult to focus on learning when we are hungry. Often, learners don’t even realize they are hungry until they start having difficulty focusing.

Whether or not your child mentions being hungry, try offering them a healthy snack before they begin their homework. Free after-school snacks are available at many Pima County Library branches.

Call your local branch or search our events calendar for more details.

Get them moving!

Physical activity can re-energize us and sharpen our mental focus. Before your child gets down to work, try asking them to do any of the following:

  • Walk, run, or bike around the block (if it is safe to do so).
  • Do a few stretches or mind-body exercises such as rubbing your belly and tapping the top of your head at the same time. Here’s a quick and simple stretching routine you can do at home. Another great source of fun and engaging mind-body exercises is Go Noodle, a resource very popular with classroom teachers.
  • Have a one-song dance party. Ask your child to pick a song they love to dance to. Let them crank up the volume and dance out the stress of the school day before they start their homework. Depending on your child’s comfort level, you can join the dance party or give them privacy to “dance like no one’s watching.”

Make it an event!

Some learners have difficulty focusing because they are easily bored. These learners might respond well to you turning a particular homework task into a timed event. Try setting the timer for around one or two minutes longer than you think your child will need, and see if they can complete the task before the timer goes off.

Note that this strategy may backfire with learners who are already anxious about completing their work or who tend to rush through homework. It’s best for those who don’t feel anxious about homework and who respond well to an added challenge.

Join in!

If you have the time, try completing some of your child’s homework tasks side-by-side with them. For example, you can try doing the same set of math problems, but using different methods. Compare answers to see whether they match, and talk about how you each solved the problem. Using this strategy shows that you are a learner, too, and also helps strengthen your child’s metacognitive skills: thinking about thinking!

No one strategy works for all learners

We encourage you and your child to try any or all of the strategies described above. Even a short brain break or simple strategy can make it easier to get down to work when the time comes. In fact, you may even try some of the strategies yourself if you are having a tough time focusing at work!

Visit our Homework page for even more great resources, including:

  • Free online tutoring
  • Online tools available 24x7x365
  • Skills Sheets for common homework assignments