07/24/2013 01:41 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2013

It's Free and Natural: Five Tips to Help Kids Focus


If I were a kid today, there's a good chance I would be diagnosed with a focus related issue. I'm guessing, but I remember how hard it was to focus in school. Some of my strongest memories are looking out the window.

I'd also say, because of the abundance of TV I watched during those long hot summers, my mind became accustomed to not operating the way it should. It simply took information in and did little with it. We all know the expression couch potato.

However, over time, I broke out of this trajectory. I can now attest to a notable change in focus after applying myself. How did I turn it around? The following five tips recount how it happened and how you can help your kids focus more effectively. The best part, it's inexpensive and all natural.

1. Get into a reading habit.
When I started law school I couldn't get through one issue of The New Yorker. I wasn't accustomed to reading outside school assignments and then it was only to memorize, regurgitate and forget. After I moved to New York City, I was so inspired by my environment that my reading increased. Now, after subscribing for over ten years to The New Yorker, I fly through the articles. The point is there is nothing better to focus the mind but to read something interesting that directly relates to our environment. The tacit job of a parent is to expose your little creation to things that will inspire them to learn. Don't just dip them into a class, discuss it, expand it and evaluate it. Determine if your child is interested and if so, is the subject matter leading him to interests in which he will activate his mind.

2. Activity. Activity. Activity.
Location is to real estate as activity is to kids (this applies to dogs as well). Kids have energy and the best way to get it utilized is to be active. In my travels to India, I visited a children's home in the southern state of Karnataka, where kids did yoga and meditation before they walked to school. By the time studies began most kids had their morning energy worked out of them and could thereby focus. In contrast, in the West, we provide kids a bunch of sugar (sadly, fruit is included in this) and grains for breakfast, which only make kids spike in energy, then we send them to sit. This is a recipe for focus disaster.

3. Screen time.
Many learning apps draw kids into learning in a backdoor way. Because tablets are used by the whole family for many different purposes, it's not associated with any one objective. Kids gravitate towards the tablet and those who use technology to learn can learn in ways that better suits their interests. There are thousands of learning apps for kids. They're cheap and help kids become interested without having to listen to the drone of one person's voice telling a dry narrative. Today, learning can be animated, include audio, and fashioned to the individual's learning speed. Being able to tap into a kid's interests will help them better focus.

4. Diet.
How much sugar is in your family's diet? The question could be better phrased as what do you eat that doesn't include sugar? I've been practicing yoga and meditation for over ten years. In those years, I've battled and conquered many issues: digestive, stress, sleeplessness, anxiety, you name it. A large part of the solutions to my problems came down to diet. As I narrowed down or amplified my diet I found one culprit that never did me any good: sugar. Besides an occasional apple, a splash of fruit juice in my water, or carrots in my salads, I can safely say I consume little sugar. When I do happen to indulge, it's a nightmare. My heart immediately starts racing. I feel hyper and I can't focus on a thing. For kids it's even worse because they are so much smaller. If you want your kids to focus feed them grounding whole foods, which means foods with little sugar, or simple carbohydrates, like those found in cookies and crackers.

5. Finally, help kids create a clean environment.
Clutter takes its toll not only on the family overall but on kids. They are very sensitive to things around them. Put them in a room with a gazillion things and it's impossible for them to focus. In fact, the best scenario is for kids to clean their own space on a regular basis. Most kids love to be in charge of something for some time. Their bedroom is the perfect place to start. Give them ownership in the room so that they take control. Not all kids have their own bedrooms but wherever exists their personal space, cultivate a sense of ownership.

When you give your kids responsibility early on, provide them with activities that challenge them both physically and mentally, reduce passive screen time, provide a clean environment with their input, and feed them a diet low in sugars, then you set them up to focus.