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Does Your Child Have a Hard Time Focusing in School? How You Can Help

Is your child easily distracted and has difficulty concentrating? Many children can struggle with focus. Keep in mind, however, that a high-energy child with a lack of focus may just need a little extra support with diet, lifestyle, and dietary supplements.

Concentrating on Diet

Research shows that an unhealthy diet featuring highly processed, high-fat, and high-sugar foods can negatively impact focus, concentration, and learning.[1] However, when kids were put on a whole foods, Mediterranean-style diet combined with exercise, research shows it enhanced memory and learning in children.[2]

Looking at Lifestyle

In addition to exercise, getting enough sleep is critical for kids. In children, lack of sleep is associated with reduced focus, memory, and learning.[3] One way to help enhance a child’s sleep pattern is to have a consistent bedtime routine that also has them going to bed, waking up, and napping at the same time every day including weekends and holidays.[4]

Do Dietary Supplements Help?

When it comes to dietary supplements, there is an important amino acid known as L-theanine that, in clinical studies, has been shown to enhance focus in children. In a 2020 study featuring boys aged 8 to 15 who were having difficulty concentrating, researchers found that L-theanine significantly improved attention and overall learning compared to the boys who took the placebo pill.[5]

A 2019 study that also featured boys aged 8 to 17 found that L-theanine improved sustained attention, learning, and impulsivity while decreasing mind wandering.[6] The good news about L-theanine is that it may help enhance clarity and calm without causing drowsiness.

According to a 2011 study featuring boys aged 8 to 12 years, L-theanine also significantly improved sleep when compared to the boys who took the placebo pill.[7]

Melatonin may also help kids improve their sleeping habits. In a 2022 study involving kids with an average age of 6, melatonin significantly improved total sleep time and sleep quality with no side effects reported.[8]

The Bottom Line

The best way to help your child improve their focus is to look at their diet and lifestyle habits. Are they sleeping enough? Getting enough physical activity throughout the day? Is their diet helping them stay energized when necessary? If you still think they can benefit from supplementation, talk to your pediatrician and ask them about L-theanine and melatonin.

Want to help your child succeed in school? Take a look at these five brain foods. For more tips on nutrition, staying healthy and motherhood follow us on Instagram at @kalvitamins!




[1] Noll M, Noll P, Mendonca C, et al. Effects of ultra-processed food on cognition and learning of adolescents: a rapid systematic review. F1000Research. 2021;10:866.

[2] Masini A, Sanmarchi F, Kawalec A, et al. Mediterranean diet, physical activity, and family characteristics associated with cognitive performance in Italian primary school children: analysis of the I-MOVE project. Eur J Pediatr. 2023;182(2):917-927.

[3] Hayes B, Bainton J. The impact of reduced sleep on school related outcomes for typically developing children aged 11-19: a systematic review. School Psychology International. 2020;41(6):569-594.

[4] Children’s Hospital Colorado. How to get kids to fall (and stay) asleep. (Accessed April 5, 2023).

[5] Kahathuduwa CN, Wakefield S, West BD, et al. Effects of L-theanine-caffeine combination on sustained attention and inhibitory control among children with ADHD: a proof-of-concept neuroimaging RCT. Sci Rep. 2020;10(1):13072.

[6] Kahathuduwa C, Wakefield S, West B, et al. L-theanine and caffeine improve sustained attention, impulsivity and cognition in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders by decreasing mind wandering. Curr Dev Nutr. 2019;3(Suppl 1).

[7] Lyon MR, Kapoor MP, Juneja LR. The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2011;16(4):348-54.

[8] Twaijri A, Waleed A, Armah B, et al. Effect of melatonin in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and sleep disorders. Journal of Family Medicine in Primary Care. 2022;11(1):299-304.