It is one of the most important skills that predicts a child's success in the classroom, but teaching a child to focus is something that baffles many parents.
Most children begin developing the ability to concentrate on tasks and activities before they are even born. And with the help of parents and teachers, children can begin cultivating that skill at a very young age.
Here are some activities and tips that help children build their focusing skills at different developmental stages:
Infants: It is important to limit distractions during playtime for young children. Even the most simplistic of activities require a lot of concentration skills at this age, so turning off the television (a device built specifically to grab and hold attention) during playtime, and keeping background music at a low and calm level will help children begin to tune into their natural ability to focus while they are performing tasks.
Toddlers: This is the bonus stage for parents. Teaching a child how to care for themselves and their space is not only an important practical life skill, it also helps to build concentration. Activities like gardening, sweeping and even learning how to wash up are engrossing activities for children at this age, just as they become meditative activities later in life.
Preschool: At this age it is parents and teachers who carry the biggest responsibility for developing concentration skills. The key to focus for preschool children is providing them with enough time to engage in an activity until they decide they are finished with it, and also making sure the activities are paired well with their developmental level. While challenging children at this age is important and will increase concentration skills, it is important to make sure children don't become too overwhelmed to the point of frustration too often, or getting them engaged in new activities that do present challenges will be met with aversion.
Any age: Exercise! It just wouldn't be a list of recommendations these days without the inclusion of exercise, but it is one of the best ways to get the mind performing at it's best capacity. Just like brain foods, brain moves are important to mental health and readiness. Getting moving on a daily basis provides the brain with enough stimulation that it makes being still when it is time to concentrate that much easier.
While the ability to focus isn't the lone predictor of school and career success, it is rare that a successful student or worker doesn't posses this skill. Developing the ability to concentrate at a young age will help children as they journey through the educational system and into adulthood.
By Melody Meiners, education blogger for SmartParenting