Nowadays, when there are so many distractors / distractions around children, how can I enable them to focus on a task or an activity?
This question is often asked by parents, but also by education professionals who work with children and parents.
I think that communication between the parents and the child is very important here, but also openness and cooperation between the parents and the education expert with whom the child spends a part of their day. Namely, in the educational process, educators and teachers are focused on encouraging the overall development of the child and carry out various activities with children that encourage the development of all areas of the child.
Of course, modern times have brought with them technology, but also the hectic everyday life of parents, so today children have access to mobile phones, computers, tablets and television. It is not surprising that children are more interested in content that is full of colors, animation and non-stop action, than in activities where they need to focus on one thing only, even more so if it also requires their total attention.
In working with children, but also in my parenting, I noticed these were some good stimuli for the development of a child’s attention span:
– meaningful activities
– open conversation and cooperation with the child
– a peaceful corner for the child
– toys that help develop attention
– board games
– reading stories
Here is some more insight into the development of children’s attention spans
Why am I talking about meaningful activities? If we want to help the child develop concentration, it makes no sense to offer the child new activities every day or to alternate several new activities in one day. The child needs the opportunity to try an activity in all the ways that are interesting to him or her. If the child is not interested in any activity at all, there is no need to push for it.
An open conversation is always a great tool, as is making a deal. When we listen to the child’s needs and desires, we make decisions more easily and prepare an environment that will help the child develop attention. It is always good to ask a child how they would like to perform an activity. If the child says they don’t know, it is not a sign that we should give up and give the child an answer and a solution, but a sign to continue with questions that will lead the child to what causes a problem in maintaining attention or to a solution acceptable to them.
Usually children are told: “Well, pay a little attention, focus a little bit more on what you’re doing, how can you not finish all of your homework at once?” Of course they can’t, because some children simply need time and space to do their homework at their own pace. This does not mean that we give in to the child and allow them not to finish their tasks; it means that we help the child and direct them towards a solution that is acceptable to them.
A peaceful corner is great for that. Let it be a place where the child can sit, with enough light and airy so that the child feels comfortable in it and is happy to return to it. Equip the corner together with the child.
A lot can really be found about toys that develop attention from birth. Babies are shown cards with black and white elements, children who start walking are given boxes in which they should place a shape or pull something out of the box. Then there are various dice, puzzles, board games, etc. for older children. It is important that we do not interrupt children during such activities. When a child is immersed in what they are doing, it is best to let them finish that game on their own. Board games are also a great activity for attention development, but for emotional development as well. Board games that last longer, have a set of rules, and require attention in the order of performance, certainly help a child who needs help to develop concentration. At first it can be very challenging for both the child and the parent, but if we are persistent and willing to accept every little progress the child makes, it will definitely help the child in strengthening their emotional regulation as well.
A great example here is our middle son. He had a hard time coping with losing at board games, while the eldest son had a hard time staying focused until the end of the game. With mine and my husband’s daily participation in the game, we slowly got to the point where they could play the game on their own without any problems. Simply put, as parents we need to understand that we are really key in every segment of child rearing and that we can really help the child in every area.
Last but not least, there’s story time. Reading stories to your kids helps keep them focused on the plot, but also on being read to for more than five minutes. In this way we help the child develop patience, speech, imagination and attention. After each story we read, we talk to them about what they heard and what they liked most. It’s a really special feeling when one day your child starts telling their own stories that they have created from all the stories they have heard while we were reading to them.
In rare cases, however, it may be the child has attention deficit disorder, so if problems persist, I definitely recommend that you consult a pediatrician or professional.