Every parent has experienced the frustration of trying to get a child to sit down and study after school ends. You set your child up at the kitchen table with all of his books, papers, and pencils to do homework. After 15 minutes, you return to find that the math worksheet has become an origami bird, the pencils are now a spike necklace on the dog, and your child has vanished.

You feel like you’re at your wit’s end as to how to get your child to study. Luckily, as long as you’re not averse to the unconventional, there is hope. Here are five unorthodox techniques that might be the key to getting your child to improve study habits and focus.

1. Take a Nap

Few things sabotage mental acuity and scholastic success like sleep deprivation. In fact, a sixth-grader who misses one hour of sleep will show the cognitive development of a fourth-grader. In other words, losing an hour of sleep is tantamount to losing “two years of cognitive maturation and development” according to Po Bronson’s NurtureShock. Good grades are also strongly correlated with higher average amounts of sleep.

2. Take a Lap

What do you do if napping isn’t an option? Exercise is an excellent alternative, as physical activity primes the brain for learning. Time reports that people learn vocabulary words 20 percent faster after exercise, and a regular exercise regimen can increase blood flow to neurological memory and learning centers by 30 percent.

3. Have Some Salmon

Studies have found that the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in children’s blood are predictive of their concentration and learning abilities. Children with higher levels perform better on reading and memory tasks and show fewer behavior problems as reported by teachers and parents. Good sources of omega-3s include salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts.

4. Add Some Motivation

It may seem like bribery, and maybe it is, but if you can offer a reward to your child for completing homework, doing a project, or doing well on a test, you will be giving your student extra motivation to study. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate reward, just something they enjoy like extra video or game time or their favorite snack. Eventually, the good grades will become their own reward.

5. Take “Tech Breaks”

Keeping study blocks brief and age-appropriate improves concentration and productivity. You probably already know breaks are important, but “tech breaks” can be even more effective and rewarding. Rather than banning cell phones and other technology for hours, take psychologist Larry Rosen’s advice and give one-minute tech breaks (e.g., texting or Facebooking) for every 10 minutes of study or 15 minutes of screen time (e.g., video games or TV shows) for every 30 minutes of study.

In Short

While the other parents in the neighborhood might think your methods for improving study habits “unusual,” these five tips have enough empirical support to warrant trying. Who would’ve ever thought the odd, salmon-eating child always running laps around the neighborhood would also be the smartest in the class? For more alternative approaches to learning, request your free K12 information kit today.

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