10 Concentration and Focus Building Techniques for Children with ADHD (2022)

Imagine that you are living inside a video game, where everything is coming at you at once. Every sight, sound, and sensation is a distraction. For a child with ADHD, getting through a typical day is something like that. And it explains a great deal about how they experience the world.

Children with ADHD typically have impairment of functions such as concentration, memory, impulse control, processing speed, and an inability to follow directions.

“The good news…there is something you can do to help your child with ADHD to improve their concentration skills.”

If you’re a parent of a child with ADD or ADHD, this most likely sounds all too familiar. Over the years, you’ve probably struggled through homework sessions with your child and tried (and failed) to get them to complete certain tasks like cleaning their room or finishing yard work. And on more than one occasion, you’ve probably felt completely drained by their high energy and seeming inability to focus.

The good news is, there is something you can do to help your child with ADHD to improve their concentration skills.

For years it was thought that each of us was born with a generous supply of brain cells but that we were unable to produce additional cells or make changes in how they function. Fairly recently, neuroscientists discovered the presence of something called neuroplasticity, which enables the brain to actually grow additional cells or modify the function of existing cells.

Amazingly, cognitive exercises have been found to produce desired changes in how the brain works and how it looks. What this means for parents is that you now can work with your child to help improve their ADHD symptoms.

Think of it this way: when you want to build up your muscles, what do you do? You do strength and endurance training. Brain exercises basically work on the same principle. They’re a way of helping your child build up focus and endurance in order to strengthen their ability to concentrate, process, and manage their emotions.

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As a child psychologist and the father of a son with ADHD, I developed a host of exercises that help kids with ADHD improve their concentration. The key is presenting them as games that are fun for parents and children to do together.

Here are a few simple exercises to get you started. While doing these exercises together, be sure to provide reinforcement in the form of praise and encouragement. Keep a record of progress (usually, this will include how fast your child can complete a task or how long they can continue a task).

1. The Coin Game

Parents like this game because it improves memory and sequencing, as well as attention and concentration. And kids enjoy it because it’s fast-paced and fun.

First, you will need a small pile of assorted coins, a cardboard sheet to cover them, and a stopwatch or timer (there are lots of free timer apps available for your phone). Choose five of the coins from the pile (for this example, we’ll say three pennies and two nickels) and put them into a sequence.

Now, say to your child: “Look carefully at the coins arranged on the table.”

Then, cover the coins with the cardboard. Start the timer, and then ask them to make the same pattern using the coins from the pile. When they are finished, mark the time with the timer and remove the cardboard cover.

Write down the time it takes them to complete the pattern and whether or not they are correct. If your child doesn’t complete it correctly, have them keep trying until they can do it.

You can increase the difficulty of the patterns as you go and include pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollars. You’ll see your child’s concentration and sequencing improve the more they play, which is a great reward for both of you.

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2. Relaxation and Positive Imagery

Combining simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing with positive visual imagery helps the brain to improve or learn new skills. For instance, research shows that if a person mentally practices their golf swing, the brain actually records the imaginary trials the same as if they were real trials, which leads to improvement on the golf course.

In other words, kids with ADHD can imagine that they’re paying attention in class or handling teasing, which can change their behavior at school. You and your child can use your creativity and give this a try.

3. Mind-Body Integration

An example of this technique would be to have your child attempt to sit in a chair without moving. The parent times how long the child can do this. Repeated practice over several weeks will show improvement. Through this activity, the neural connections between the brain and body are strengthened, providing improved self-control.

4. Crossword Puzzles and Picture Puzzles

It sounds simple, but these are great tools for kids with ADHD. Crossword puzzles improve attention for words and sequencing ability. Likewise, picture puzzles, in which your younger child has to look for things that are “wrong” in the picture or look for hard-to-find objects, also improve attention and concentration.

5. Memory and Concentration Games

Children’s games, such as Simon, are great ideas for improving memory and concentration. They are quick and fun.

Memory motivates the child to remember the location of picture squares, and Simon helps them memorize sequences of visual and auditory stimuli. Through repeated playing, brain circuits are exercised and challenged, which strengthens connections and thus improves function.

Also, there are countless free online games that also improve concentration or memory. You can find these games on sites such as PBS Kids, Fun Brain, and Mr. Nussbaum.

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For older children and adolescents, check out the cognitive exercises provided by Lumosity.

6. Dancing Sequence Games

There are various versions to select from, depending on your child’s age and what he or she likes. These games can be played on various video game platforms, including Xbox, Wii, and others. You will also need to purchase the dance mat that goes with your system.

These games improve concentration, processing speed, planning, sequencing, and motor integration. As an added bonus, they can also be a good form of aerobic exercise.

7. Story Based Games

To play these games, all you need is a good story book and a good imagination. You can simply read a short story and give the child a pop quiz on the content. Or, you can read a paragraph or two from a story and then ask your child to come up with what they think might come next.

Provide guidance to keep the content connected to the original story. You can then add your take on what happens after your child says what he thinks happens next. If possible, keep trading back and forth and see what you end up with.

These games help with building working memory and concentration. They can also help in the development of logic and sense of humor.

8. Mazes

You can find mazes appropriate for the age of your child for free online. One site that has them is KrazyDad Mazes. Start off with easy ones and move forward. Keep track of speed and errors. Of course, don’t forget to praise improving scores.

Mazes are great for concentration, planning, sequencing, processing speed and visual-motor integration.

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9. Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are very good for kids with ADHD or learning disabilities because they help build that brain muscle we were talking about, as do all these exercises. There are maze games (like Perplexus) where players must maneuver a small marble around challenging barriers inside a transparent ball, for example. You can vary the challenges to provide a variety of games.

10. Paddle Ball

Did you ever play with one of these as a kid? I did as a child and a young teen and really enjoyed it. Basically, it’s a wooden paddle with a rubber ball attached to it with a rubber band. The equipment should easy to find at a toy store or drug store.

Best to start with bouncing the ball downward and when that is mastered, switch to bouncing it upward. Keep track of how long your child can keep the ball bouncing. Encourage increasing the amount of time. For older kids, you might want to talk about what it would take to set a record to motivate them.

Conclusion

As you do these brain exercises, work together with your child, serving as their coach. Encourage them, and track their progress as they improve. Working together is a win-win solution because it also strengthens the relationship you have with your child.

Go ahead and have some fun. Do the exercises along with your child. And who knows, you may find your brain will work a little faster and smarter, too!

These suggestions are provided as activities to supplement medical and/or psychological treatment provided under the guidance of a physician or psychologist. They will enhance the benefits of the treatment but will not on their own resolve severe symptoms for a child who has been accurately diagnosed with ADHD.

Related Content:
8 Tips for Parents of Children with ADHD
6 Brain Training Exercises for Children and Teens

FAQs

How can ADHD improve concentration? ›

Tips for ADHD focus
  1. Create a thought dump. Distraction can be one of the greatest hurdles when it comes to focusing on a task. ...
  2. Interrupt yourself. ...
  3. Work with someone you trust. ...
  4. Work toward clarity. ...
  5. Give yourself deadlines. ...
  6. Turn off your smartphone. ...
  7. Use organization tools. ...
  8. Write yourself notes (not just reminders!)

What exercises improve focus and concentration? ›

10 focus exercises
  1. Make notes or a to-do list. Recording any activities you think about while performing a task can help you put them aside until you can complete them. ...
  2. Meditate for five minutes. ...
  3. Read a long book. ...
  4. Exercise your body. ...
  5. Practice active listening. ...
  6. Try a counting game. ...
  7. Memorize patterns. ...
  8. Complete a crossword puzzle.
25 May 2021

What activities are good for kids with ADHD? ›

Other fun activities to try include:
  • Indoor scavenger hunt.
  • Building towers out of cards or blocks.
  • Balloon volleyball.
  • Playing music and dancing.
  • Indoor obstacle course.
  • Jumping rope.
  • Hula hooping.
  • Jumping on a trampoline.
26 Apr 2022

How can I help my ADHD child focus without medication? ›

Helping Children with ADHD Focus Without Medication: 7 Tips for...
  1. Encourage good sleeping habits. ...
  2. Make dietary changes. ...
  3. Practice mindfulness with them. ...
  4. Introduce them to music. ...
  5. Engage them in more outdoor activities. ...
  6. Enroll them in behavioral therapy. ...
  7. Try brain training.
3 May 2021

What games are good for ADHD? ›

The Best Board Games for Kids with ADHD (Pandemic Edition)
  • 1 of 11. Best Board Games for Elementary Age Kids with ADHD. ...
  • 2 of 11. Rory's Story Cubes. ...
  • 3 of 11. Ice Cool. ...
  • 4 of 11. Animal Upon Animal. ...
  • 5 of 11. Catan Junior. ...
  • 6 of 11. The Magic Labyrinth. ...
  • 7 of 11. Pitch Car. ...
  • 8 of 11. My First Carcassonne.
30 Dec 2021

Do puzzles help with ADHD? ›

Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are very good for kids with ADHD or learning disabilities because they help build that brain muscle we were talking about, as do all these exercises.

What causes lack of concentration in a child? ›

a lack of sleep or a poor routine. a diet high in sugar and fat with no sustaining nutrition to assist concentration in the classroom. excessive screen-time, especially prior to going to bed. difficulties at home, such as a recent separation of parents or a family trauma.

What are good brain exercises? ›

6 Great Brain Exercises to Try
  • Do a Crossword Puzzle. ...
  • Play an Online Brain Game. ...
  • Start a Jigsaw Puzzle. ...
  • Build a Model or Start a Knitting Project. ...
  • Join a Card Game. ...
  • Learn Some New Dance Moves.
23 Jun 2022

What is attention training technique? ›

The Attention Training Technique (ATT) uses sounds in a formal exercise to help us see thoughts, and our attention, in a different way, which will result in an increased ability to distance ourselves from unhelpful thoughts, and improve our ability to control our focus of attention.

How do you motivate a child with ADHD? ›

How to Help Motivate a Child with ADHD
  1. Praise good behaviour.
  2. Help them stay organized and focused.
  3. Teach them how to manage large tasks.
  4. Practice calm communication.
  5. Teach them how to calm down.

How do you engage a child with ADHD? ›

Strategies to help students with ADHD in the classroom
  1. Set clear rules. ...
  2. Establish a classroom routine. ...
  3. Use visual aids. ...
  4. Minimise distractions. ...
  5. Simplify tasks and instructions. ...
  6. Allow for breaks and movement. ...
  7. Keep feedback positive. ...
  8. Starting the lesson.

What are triggers for kids with ADHD? ›

Common triggers include: stress, poor sleep, certain foods and additives, overstimulation, and technology. Once you recognize what triggers your ADHD symptoms, you can make the necessary lifestyle changes to better control episodes.

What vitamins help kids focus? ›

Supplements and Vitamins for ADHD Focus

Vitamins — particularly zinc, iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, and magnesium — are critical to healthy brain function. Experts recommend that people should strive to eat well-balanced meals and maintain healthy levels of these key nutrients, experts say.

How do ADHD students learn best? ›

Focus on short-term goals.

Children with ADHD benefit from short-term learning goals. Some can focus only on completing assigned tasks one day at a time. Others may benefit from a half-day goal that breaks up their day with more than one sense of accomplishment and feeling of success.

What foods are good for a child with ADHD? ›

Foods rich in protein — lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products — may have beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms. Protein-rich foods are used by the brain to make neurotransmitters — chemicals that help brain cells talk with each other.

What foods help kids focus? ›

7 Brain Foods for Kids
  • Eggs. The protein and nutrients in eggs help kids concentrate, says Los Angeles-based chef Beth Saltz, RD. ...
  • Greek Yogurt. Fat is important to brain health, says Laura Lagano, RD. ...
  • Greens. ...
  • Fish. ...
  • Nuts and Seeds. ...
  • Oatmeal. ...
  • Apples and Plums.

What foods help students focus? ›

10 foods (and drinks) to improve concentration and memory
  • Blueberries. Often called nature's superfood, blueberries have several health benefits. ...
  • Fatty fish. ...
  • Green tea. ...
  • Coffee. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Nuts. ...
  • Pumpkin seeds. ...
  • Leafy green vegetables.
8 Sept 2021

What is play therapy for ADHD? ›

Play therapy — used to treat ADHD, trauma, or other childhood difficulties — allows kids to express themselves in a language all their own. Play is the “language of childhood.” Watch a child play, and you'll see her express a variety of emotions, acting out fanciful scenarios.

What type of therapy is used for ADHD in children? ›

Behavior therapy is an effective treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that can improve a child's behavior, self-control, and self-esteem. It is most effective in young children when it is delivered by parents.

Is ADHD a disability? ›

Yes. Whether you view attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as neurological — affecting how the brain concentrates or thinks — or consider ADHD as a disability that impacts working, there is no question that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers individuals with ADHD.

What stimulates the ADHD brain? ›

High-risk activities — driving fast, motorcycle riding, and waterskiing — motivate ADHD brains to focus. Some extreme activities, like daring ski jumps, sky-diving, or taking fast-acting street drugs, elicit a dopamine spike, the brain's most intense reward.

What is stimulation ADHD? ›

Bored or under-stimulated ADHD brains may become restless and demand an immediate reward and more stimulation. While you may think your child's fidgeting, noise, laughter, yelling, or conflict-making behaviors are inappropriate and unprovoked, their under-aroused brains, needing stimulation, are demanding it.

What is brain mapping for ADHD? ›

To capture and measure brainwave activity, the Center for Attention Deficit and Learning Disorders uses Quantitative Electroencephalography – also called qEEG Brain Mapping. The information captured in this process is displayed as color-coded maps showing brainwave activity in different parts of the brain.

Do memory games help ADHD? ›

Video games have been presented as a way to practice problem solving, memory and focusing skills. Any game helps anyone learn problem-solving skills. But that doesn't mean it's a treatment for ADHD. There really isn't evidence that playing video games will be helpful for kids with ADHD.

Why is exercise important for ADHD? ›

According to the broad science, exercise tempers ADHD by increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine-both of which play leading roles in regulating the attention system.

What games help with ADHD? ›

Research has shown that traditional (free) games, such as Red Light, Green Light, can be very effective. Even crossword puzzles have been shown to increase attention among ADHD students.

What vitamins help kids focus? ›

Supplements and Vitamins for ADHD Focus

Vitamins — particularly zinc, iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, and magnesium — are critical to healthy brain function. Experts recommend that people should strive to eat well-balanced meals and maintain healthy levels of these key nutrients, experts say.

What type of therapy is used for ADHD in children? ›

Behavior therapy is an effective treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that can improve a child's behavior, self-control, and self-esteem. It is most effective in young children when it is delivered by parents.

Can ADHD children concentrate? ›

Researchers recognize that ADHD doesn't impair the ability to pay attention, but rather the ability to control what one pays attention to. Medication can do a lot to help many kids concentrate, but all children with ADHD can benefit from the techniques to increase focus described here.

How do you motivate a child with ADHD? ›

How to Help Motivate a Child with ADHD
  1. Praise good behaviour.
  2. Help them stay organized and focused.
  3. Teach them how to manage large tasks.
  4. Practice calm communication.
  5. Teach them how to calm down.

What is play therapy for ADHD? ›

Play therapy — used to treat ADHD, trauma, or other childhood difficulties — allows kids to express themselves in a language all their own. Play is the “language of childhood.” Watch a child play, and you'll see her express a variety of emotions, acting out fanciful scenarios.

What is brain training for ADHD? ›

“Brain training is a non-pharmaceutical intervention that uses technology tools to help people with ADHD improve executive functioning,” explains counselor Joshua McKivigan. Executive functioning is a skill set that includes: paying attention. remembering information.

What triggers ADHD behavior? ›

Common triggers include: stress, poor sleep, certain foods and additives, overstimulation, and technology. Once you recognize what triggers your ADHD symptoms, you can make the necessary lifestyle changes to better control episodes.

What is the best vitamin for ADHD? ›

Finally, supplementing vitamins B and C can also help alleviate ADD and ADHD symptoms. Vitamin C, like zinc, iron, and magnesium, is used to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine. Additionally, vitamin B deficiency is linked to irritability and fatigue in children.

What is a natural supplement for ADHD? ›

ADHD Supplement: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Usually given in the form of fish oil, omega-3s are probably the best-researched supplement for ADHD. Numerous studies, including two meta-analyses, have found benefit in the area of hyperactivity, attention, or impulsivity.

What is the most effective intervention for ADHD? ›

Stimulants are the best-known and most widely used ADHD medications. Between 70-80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms when taking these fast-acting medications. Nonstimulants were approved for the treatment of ADHD in 2003.

What is the most common intervention for students with ADHD? ›

Peer tutoring is one of the most effective school-based intervention strategies to assist ADHD children and even children without this disorder with their academic progress.

What are the two most common treatment approaches for ADHD? ›

There are two main types of medication for ADHD: stimulant and non-stimulant. They work in different ways in the brain to help control ADHD's key symptoms. Not all people respond to the same medication in the same way.

Do puzzles help with ADHD? ›

Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are very good for kids with ADHD or learning disabilities because they help build that brain muscle we were talking about, as do all these exercises.

What are the 3 main symptoms of ADHD? ›

The 3 categories of symptoms of ADHD include the following:
  • Inattention: Short attention span for age (difficulty sustaining attention) Difficulty listening to others. ...
  • Impulsivity: Often interrupts others. ...
  • Hyperactivity: Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion.

What does ADHD hyperfocus feel like? ›

Hyperfocus is a state of intense concentration where you lose track of time, you really enjoy what you're doing and you seem to be better at that than whatever it is you're doing. Now if you're playing a video game, you're really good at playing that video game.

Videos

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4. A Drug-Free Approach to Helping Kids with ADHD Get Back on Track
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5. Activities for Concentration, Focus, Attention & Sitting Tolerance
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