Is your child struggling to stay focused when studying? It sounds counterintuitive but studying harder is not the answer. A lot of things are trying to get your kid’s attention: after-school activities, their phone, and TV. It’s no wonder they struggle with homework. What they need are strategic systems and habits to ensure that study sessions are intentional and productive. Studying smarter, not harder is the path to better results and ultimately better performance in school.
Thanks to Genie Academy, I learned smart study habits that helped me gain better grades and ultimately get into MIT. Now, I want to share some strategies with you, too. These 7 effective study habits will help you maximize their learning potential, all while balancing work and play.
1. Create a productive environment when studying
While having a dedicated and organized study space is essential, don’t be afraid to change up their environment occasionally. Studies show that our brain links the information we absorb to the environment we’re in. Studying the same material in different backgrounds strengthens information recall because we link them to multiple things.
So when you see your child losing productivity, getting distracted more than usual, or just feeling burned out, maybe it's time to let them study in a library or a nearby park instead. It just might be what they need to reset.
It’s not advisable though to let them study on their bed or furniture where they can fall asleep. Take any distractions away too, such as an iPad or cellphone, until it’s time for a study break.
If you’re wondering when’s the best time to study, figure out what time of day they are most productive and let them study then.
2. Give them quick breaks to recharge
To avoid getting burned out quickly, give your child quick 5 to 10-minute breaks every hour. They can get something to eat, play, or simply do nothing. Quick breaks also help them absorb all the information they learned for the past hour.
3. Create study guides, quizlets, and flashcards for review
For midterms or finals, create study guides with all the equations, formulas, and key information so they are all in one place.
You can also do quizlets with your kids to check if they understand the lesson. For math problems, you can do multiple choice or fill in the blanks while for terms and definitions, you can create flashcards. Flashcards handwritten by your child are best because it increases the likelihood that they will remember the material.
To make things more fun and engaging, you can gamify quizzes by setting time limits, inviting multiple players (i.e., your child’s classmates), and creating a point and rewards system. There are also several gamification apps available that make learning interactive.
4. Plan out a study schedule
If your child's studying for a final exam, plan out what to review for each day of the week leading up to exam day.
For example, if the test is on Friday, your child can start reading over their notes on Monday. Tuesday, they may look over their homework or additional practice problems. Wednesday could be for a practice exam. Finally, Thursday could be for creating a quick review of all the information they keep forgetting (formulas, equations, concepts) so they can read through them the morning of the exam.
5. Find a sport or physical activity that your child can do outside of school
Exercise helps students improve in school. It reconditions the brain for peak performance and improves alertness, focus, and motivation. It also strengthens neural pathways, which is important for absorbing new information. In short, not only does exercise develop the brain, but it also makes retaining information easier.
6. Help them find their motivation for studying
Do they want to make their parents proud? Do they want to feel proud of themselves for achieving better grades? Do they want to be top of the class? Are they aiming for a high GPA to get to a certain high school?
Sit down with your child and find out what their aspirations are. Talk about how getting good grades will help achieve them. When they're motivated internally, they’ll spend more intentional time on class assignments, readings, and homework.
7. Use their preferred learning style to maximize learning
Does your child prefer auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learning? Finding the learning style that’s most effective for them will make the material more interesting and ensure maximum retention.
For visual learners, try learning by reading textbooks and summarizing information through diagrams and charts. For auditory learners, try watching videos, reading notes out loud to them, or talking about lessons with a classmate. For kinesthetic learners, they can draw pictures on their study guide to illustrate the term, use items to map out concepts or connect real-life experiences to the material (for example, think about the acceleration you feel as you ride a car).
Learning styles form a continuum, which means they can have an above-average interest in one learning style and average preference in the other two. So, don’t limit your child to just one kind.
Every child has their own unique set of skills, motivation, and learning styles. A customized learning strategy will not only make study time productive but also enjoyable.
Hi, my name is Olivia Rivera and I’m part of the graduating class of 2026 at MIT. I’m studying Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Spanish and computer science. As a former Math Genie student, I am using my skills to teach math classes at Genie Academy as well as being a teacher’s assistant at MIT in the fall. I enjoy reading, puzzles, chess, and playing soccer.
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