It’s hard to sit for a half-hour. Really hard. Especially when there are distractions everywhere, so why are parents and, sometimes, teachers insisting students sit for a longer period of time while completing homework?
High school and middle school classes are usually about 50 minutes a day, often less, sometimes more. Elementary classes rarely top 20 minutes of sitting and focusing. So when homework for a 9-year-old takes 40 minutes, how can we, as parents, help our children?
On Julieverse, I often discuss homework strategies, focusing on ways to overcome homework stress and help your children achieve success with homework without doing it for them. One of those ways is by taking breaks.
Children are not wired with long attention spans. They play with toys for just minutes before moving on to the next. They can sit comfortably at a dinner table for only a few minutes before squirming, thus the necessity of crayons and paper at most restaurants, even white-linen restaurants. Even movies are adept at providing to short attention spans as they shift scenes allowing for children to shift positions and take breaks.
The same should be said for homework, seat work, busy work… even reading time. Young children need to learn to create breaks, and parents can help them. After a time of sitting and working, encourage your children to move. It gets their blood flowing and fills their creative juices by allowing them to think differently and see things in a different way. Whether a child is reading, practicing handwriting, solving math problems, or completing a deep research project, a bit of movement will help children to the last longer and stronger in their assignment.
How to take a break
Children age nine and under should take a break every 10-15 minutes. For children who have long tasks ahead of them, break assignments into chunks by agreeing to a stopping point. For example, if a child has two pages of math facts as an assignment that will typically take him 10 minutes per side, agree that after finishing the first side, he may take a 2-minute break, then go right back to complete the task. Not only will the task look less daunting to him in chunks, but it will also teach him to better manage his time.
What to do during a quick study break
In our house, we have a set of choices for break time.
Have a snack: If it’s snack time, we often set out crackers, cheese, and pepperoni, or celery and peanut butter for break time. Healthy foods encourage children to keep learning and give them a boost of energy.
Go for a run. I love to challenge my kids to run around the house 4 times or as many times as they can. Movement is key when a child has been sitting for a long time, as it allows the blood to flow.
Do yoga or meditate. Most basic yoga moves can easily be practiced by children, and most children love to try yoga stretches. Another great way to move your blood, stretching allows creative development, and meditative breathing allows for oxygen to enter the brain.
Draw. While all children should move, some may be energized and encouraged to use the creative sides of their brains. Having a coloring book and crayons nearby allows children to see things in a different light and use their fingers in a different method.
Sing and dance. Another opportunity for movement and using our minds differently, children who dance and sing will use their lungs and body.
Get a breath of fresh air. As with meditating and yoga, allowing fresh air to enter the body pushes new oxygen into the brain and, with it, new spaces for ideas. An excellent opportunity for an easy break, we often encourage the children to “just step outside.” A walk, a quick slide down the sliding board, or a swing on the swings, and the kids come back inside ready to work and finish their assignments.