“I can’t get my child to sit down for more than a few minutes; it’s like they need to get up and run around”
During this period of home learning, as taxing as every day feels, there are also moments when we learn more about how our children are learning; what helps them and what the challenges may be. This is information we may not have previously noticed. One of the more frequent comments from parents is that they are struggling to support their child to sit down and focus on an activity for any length of time.
We all learn in different ways, depending on our strengths and our needs. It is rare, however, that many primary school aged children will sit at a desk or table carrying out academic work for the duration of the school day. This doesn’t happen and home – and it doesn’t happen at school.
The school day is sectioned in to chunks that support children to both attend and listen but also to have moments where their learning is more physical or active – and other moments where they can have a break from learning and do something completely different.
For those children who have a particular difficulty attending to more sedate learning, the answers to their engagement in learning often lie in what they are showing or telling us in their behaviour. It may be that a child requires a more physical, ‘hands on’ learning approach to remain engaged, that they require short tasks with a definite end to them in order to remain focussed, or that they require frequent movement breaks in order to remain focussed. Here are some tips to support our little movers in their engagement for home learning:
A morning ‘burn off’
Some children require an opportunity to be active before they are able to focus and organise themselves for more structured learning. Starting the day with the routine of a physical activity is a great way to run off the excess energy and prepare for learning
Give a countdown
Making sure that activities have a clear timeframe or end will help your child to focus, particularly if the structured learning is sandwiched between 2 more physical tasks. Explaining this to your child (We’re going to complete this activity, then we’re going to play a moving game) sets an expectation and clear success criteria for moving on. It is better for your child to feel the success of completing a short activity, than the disappointment of not completing a longer one, so ensure you set a realistic expectation.
Make the learning physical
Many activities can be presented in a way where movement becomes a part of the game. For example, times tables questions and answers can be hidden around the house to find in pairs, science activities can be ‘live’ opportunities where the task can be touched, felt and experienced. Maths work can involve objects, food or things to make. This learning is likely to be more successful for the kinaesthetic learner, who needs to experience learning with all of their senses.
Allow frequent breaks
If your child needs frequent learning breaks, build this in to your home learning day. Help your child to identify when they genuinely need a break from learning and to communicate this with you in an appropriate way (e.g. by saying “I need a break”)
Pick your battles
You can’t win them all! At all times, but particularly during this period of he learning, patience will be tested and there will be days which are not so successful. You are an expert in reading your child’s behaviour and signals – use and trust these skills to decide which battles you choose!
Why not try our ‘Can I have your Attention?’ videos to help your child get in the mode for learning?