by Jenny Smiechowski –
The beginning of the school year is an exciting time for your kids. They get to start a new grade, reconnect with old friends, make new friends, and join in on their favorite after-school activities.
But it’s also a demanding time. They have books to read, homework to finish, and tests to take. And, after a summer spent away from the classroom, it can be hard to switch back into school mode.
Of course, some kids struggle with learning and concentration more than others. Those with ADHD or learning disabilities are particularly susceptible to distraction, concentration difficulties and restlessness in the classroom (1).
But, the truth is, every child could benefit from help staying focused and attentive at school. Luckily, as a parent, there’s a lot you can do to set your kids up for school-time success. Here are five of the best natural ways to boost your kids’ learning and focus this school year:
Meditation is one of the most scientifically-proven ways to turn your kid’s brain into a lean, mean learning machine. That’s because meditation has been shown to improve memory, reading comprehension and focus (2). In fact, a 2013 study from researchers at the University of California – Santa Barbara found that students who completed two weeks’ worth of mindfulness classes improved their scores on a verbal GRE test and working memory capacity test (2). They also reported less mind-wandering while taking the tests (2). Other studies found that meditation and mindfulness practices reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue in students taking tests too (3).
Now, all of these studies were performed on college students, but the benefits of mindfulness and meditation apply to students of all ages—especially if your child struggles with ADHD. A 2003 study conducted by Australian researchers found that meditation significantly improved ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity and inattention in children between the ages of 4 and 12 (4).
Of course, if you have young kids (especially those with a tendency toward hyperactivity), you may be wondering how the heck you get them to sit down and meditate. Well, you can start by seeing if there are children’s meditation and yoga classes available in your area. You could also try one of the many kid-friendly meditations available online, like these three from the Chopra Center or this breath awareness meditation video for kids.
At first, sending your kids to school with a pack of chewing gum may sound like a bad idea. It’s bound to distract them, get stuck in someone’s hair or end up on the bottom of someone’s shoe, right?
But, the truth is, as long as you teach your kids gum chewing etiquette (and check with their teachers to make sure it’s allowed), a piece of gum here and there can help your kids concentrate and become better learners. In fact, studies show that chewing gum can improve memory and concentration (5). And chewing gum is particularly helpful during tests and at homework time. A 2009 study found that eighth-graders who chewed gum while taking tests and working on homework improved their standardized math scores by three percent and got better final grades than students who didn’t chew gum during tests and study time (6).
If you do decide to try the gum-chewing method for better memory and concentration, make sure to choose a healthy brand of gum that isn’t packed with artificial ingredients like BHT and aspartame. There are some better brands available at most health food stores, including Xylichew, Spry and PUR (7).
One of the simplest ways to improve skills like concentration and memory is to use brain-boosting essential oils. A 2016 study from researchers at Northumbria University found that smelling rosemary can improve memory (8). And another study by the same researchers found that drinking peppermint tea enhances memory and alertness (8).
Now, you don’t need to send your kids to school with a thermos full of peppermint tea or even a full vial of essential oil, for that matter. Instead, try giving them an essential oil diffuser necklace with a few drops of peppermint or rosemary oil inside. You could also put a few drops of essential oils like rosemary and peppermint into an essential oil diffuser at home during homework time to aid your kids’ concentration and memory while they study. You may even want to try Native Remedies’ Fatigue Fighter™ Essential Oil Blend, which promotes energy, alertness and mental sharpness with essential oils like rosemary and peppermint, as well as other brain-supporting oils like cedarwood and eucalyptus.
Making sure your kids get enough physical exercise also helps ensure that their mental muscles are ready to work once they set foot in the classroom. In fact, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that the simple act of walking for 20 minutes improved kids’ attention span, as well as their performance in reading, math, and spelling (9).
Of course, your kids will probably get some exercise in gym class or during recess. But, just to be safe, encourage them to sign up for an after-school activity that includes exercise, like a team sport, dance class or gymnastics class. You can also go for nightly family walks, which will improve your entire family’s mental and physical health and give you bonus family bonding time.
Herbs and Homeopathy
If you’re looking for even more learning, concentration, and memory support, you may want to try brain-supporting herbs and homeopathic remedies too. The herb gingko biloba, for example, has been shown to reduce hyperactivity and attention problems in children (10). You can find gingko biloba, along with other herbs that encourage concentration and learning (like skullcap, chamomile, gotu kola, wild oat seed, stinging nettle and rooibos) in Native Remedies’ Focus Formula™ for Concentration & Mental Focus. If your child’s difficulty in school stems from hyperactivity and a short attention span, you may also want to try Native Remedies’ BrightSpark™ Tablets for Attention Problems & Hyperactivity, which contain homeopathic ingredients to ease these issues, like Hyoscyamus, Arsen iod, Argent nit, and Veratrum alb.
In addition to these five natural brain boosters, you should always make sure your child gets plenty of sleep, eats a healthy diet, stays well-hydrated and has lots of time set aside for relaxation and fun. Because, when all is said and done, a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle is by far the best way to keep him or her focused, attentive and ready to learn!
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- “Misunderstood Minds: Difficulties with Attention.” PBS-WTTW. N.D. Web 21 Aug. 2017. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/misunderstoodminds/attentiondiffs.html;.
- “Mindfulness improves reading ability, working memory, and task-focus.” ScienceDaily. 26 Mar. 2013. Web 21 Aug. 2017. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326133339.htm;.
- “Integrative body-mind training (IBMT) meditation found to boost brain connectivity.” ScienceDaily. 18 Aug. 2010. Web 21 Aug. 2017. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100816155000.htm;.
- “Effects of Sahaja Yoga Meditation on ADHD.” Meditation Research. N.D. Web 22 Aug. 2017. <http://meditationresearch.co.uk/adhd/;.
- “Chewing gum helps you concentrate for longer, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. 8 Mar. 2013. Web 22 Aug. 2017. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130308093933.htm;.
- Gajilan, Chris. “Chew on this: Gum may be good for body, mind.” CNN. N.D. Web 22 Aug. 2017. <http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/22/chewing.gum.benefits/;.
- Praderio, Caroline. “8 Best Chewing Gums (Not Packed With Chemicals).” Prevention. 1 Apr. 2015. Web 22 Aug. 2017. <https://www.prevention.com/eatclean/clean-gum-brands;.
- “Herbs that can boost your mood and memory.” Northumbria University- Newcastle. 29 Apr. 2016. Web 22 Aug. 2017. <https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/news-events/news/2016/04/herbs-that-can-boost-your-mood-and-memory/;.
- “Physical Activity May Strengthen Children’s Ability To Pay Attention.” ScienceDaily. 1 Apr. 2009. Web 22 Aug. 2017. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331183800.htm;.
- Uebel-von Sandersleben, Henrik, et al. “Ginkgo biloba Extract EGb 761® in Children with ADHD
Preliminary Findings of an Open Multilevel Dose-Finding Study.” Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie. 2014. 42; 337-347. doi: https://doi.org/10.1024/1422-4917/a000309. Web 22 Aug. 2017.