“It’s important to remember that concentration, or the ability to focus and not get easily distracted, is a cognitive skill that is still developing in school-age kids,” says Sossy Karine Sahakian, an Occupational Therapist with the Mental Health team at CHEO, a pediatric healthcare and research centre in Ottawa. She notes that this skill doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25!
The good news is there are plenty of strategies and cool gadgets for kids that can help ease school-related stress and anxiety, while also improving their ability to focus both in the classroom and at home. Every child is different, so parents should work with their kid to determine the best way to support them, says Sahakian.
Most kids won’t have a firm grasp on how long a minute, or five, really is, so a clock or timer is helpful for keeping track of timed breaks and developing time management skills. “Breaks are very important,” says Sahakian. “They help the brain to integrate learning and moving the body oxygenates the brain prior to a thinking task.” If your child is sensitive to sound, try a silent hourglass timer.
A calendar gives kids a big picture look at their schedule, which is helpful for planning ahead and gives them a sense of control by knowing what’s coming up. This large peel and stick dry erase calendar is big enough for the whole family and can be used again and again.
A planner is a great way to plan for upcoming tasks and create step-by-step routines so that homework gets done on time. “Sometimes kids don’t know where to start when they are faced with a big homework task, which can lead them to get overwhelmed or give up quickly,” says Sahakian. She suggests parents help kids write out to-do lists or steps to achieve their homework goals. The stickers in this kit are a fun way for kids to further customize their notebook.
Keep essentials like pens, pencils and a calculator handy in a mesh desk organizer like this one. When it comes to kid friendly time-management tools, a tidy and organized homework space goes a long way. If everything is in its place, you’ll avoid wasting time by searching for school supplies. Plus, a clean and minimalist workspace is automatically free of unwanted distractions.
The story behind this fidget toy is sure to resonate with your child. Gyrings was invented by 12-year-old Jakob Sperry, who wanted to develop a fidget toy that would help him manage his own ADHD and improve his focus in school. The result? A highly entertaining self-regulation tool that busies fingers, focuses the mind and helps keep stress in check.
“For some kids who are more jittery, fidgety or anxious, having a fidget toy can be helpful to provide them with tactile sensations that can be grounding, self-soothing or provide deep-pressure touch,” says Sahakian. This fidget toy pack offers plenty of options whatever your child’s preference is, including a bubble pop fidget toy, fidget spinners and other types of fidget toys.
This cube fidget toy is perfect for restless little hands. The cube opens to reveal different textures kids can run their fingers over to elicit that soothing Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) tingle. It also allows your child to create their own satisfying sound effect combinations thanks to a removable recorder.
This small and silent fidget toy is great for school. Your child wears the ring on their finger and only needs to twist or roll it to provide light pressure and sensorial stress relief. These types of self-regulation gadgets for kids are helpful when kids have to listen to something more challenging or while talking about difficult subjects.
If you’re not able to turn off or eliminate all distracting noises in your child’s study space, consider soft music or a white noise machine to drown out irritating noise. This option has six soothing sounds to select from, including white noise, ocean, rainforest, summer night, bird and bubbling brook. It may also help your active kiddo wind down for a more restful sleep.
“For kids who are sensitive to noise, noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds can be useful,” says Sahakian. Look for noise cancelling versus noise reducing. Many noise-cancelling headphone models can be quite an investment, but these Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones are a more affordable option for kids to use.
Repetitive sounds can be soothing and helpful for older kids who enjoy following a rhythm or beat while they work, says Sahakian. A Newton’s Pendulum, which creates a clicking sound as the balls swing back and forth, is a low-tech way to create a soothing repetitive sound. Plus, it’ll teach your kid a little about physics, too.
Your child might benefit from soft music playing in the background while they work on their homework. This portable Boombox has a built-in AM/FM radio, a top loading CD player and an Aux input so you can play music from other audio devices, too. Plus, it’s available in six fun colours.
As every parent knows, kids have a lot of energy and, for many, sitting still is nearly impossible. Bounce bands are a way to release that energy, without being disruptive. These lightweight and portable elastics attach to any chair and give kids a place to rest or bounce their feet.
“When a kid’s feet are dangling off a seat or their posture is misaligned, they will be spending extra energy on maintaining a posture, which takes away from cognitive energy required to stay focused on a task and even use a writing tool,” says Sahakian. This desk and chair set is adjustable to various heights, so it’ll grow with your child. Plus, the desktop can be tilted up to 25 degrees so you can set it to the best angle for each task. A spacious compartment drawer stores books and supplies out of sight.
Having access to alternative seating might also be helpful for kids who have trouble sitting still. Like a yoga ball, a wobble stool promotes proper posture and core strength, while still allowing for freedom of movement. The wide, non-slip base is sturdy and won’t scratch floors. It’s ideal for restless or hyperactive children.
“Some kids who have difficulty with awareness of their body’s position in space (which is called our proprioceptive sense) can benefit from deep pressure or proprioceptive input, such as placing a weighted item (bag or stuffed animal) on their lap while they work,” says Sahakian. This Minecraft-themed plush blanket weighs 4.5 pounds for a safe, but snuggly feeling of pressure.