Concentration: a crucial tool for kids

2011-01-28 00:00

IN our modern, fast-paced existence we’ve become accustomed to a way of life that includes drive-through eating, speed tills, express garages, instant access to information and immediate gratification. While these can all be of great benefit to human development and growth they can also stunt the development of a fundamental human­ skill. That is, they hinder the development of our habit of attention.

The ability to concentrate and pay attention needs to be spoken of as a habit. This is because when a person is unable to sit still and focus on the task at hand they have often never learnt the skill to do so. We are so busy running from one activity to the next, we spend a great deal of time in front of the TV — which is full of flashing images which prevent one from learning to focus on one thing at a time — and we are always on the go. The result is that many people no longer develop the habit of focusing on one aspect of life or enjoy looking at a picture or are able to discuss a topic for any length of time. Yet this ability to concentrate is one of the most fundamental pre-school and life skills all humans need to develop.

When it comes to learning to read, competency in numeracy and later developing the ability to access and process information, in order for further learning to take place, a child needs to be able to concentrate. This includes being able to engage their full attention and focus on a topic for a length of time. This all requires a child to be able to push aside all other thoughts and focus only on the task at hand until they have completed the task. Without this skill of attention none of us would ever reach our full potential.

In a classroom of over 20 children teachers don’t have the time — and cannot be expected — to teach every child to remain focused and so develop their habit of attention. Instead this is something every parent needs to take seriously and so help their own children develop. This may seem an overwhelming task for any parent and yet there are some easy-to-implement activities that you can draw into your daily life to help your child develop the habit of attention.

• First, try to slow life down. Once they have finished with an activity, go home and let them soak in all they have experienced. Talk about how they felt and let them internalise it.

• Limit television time. When they do watch, let it be something educational and not fast-paced, flashing images with quick scene changes.

• Let children finish what they are doing and complete their activities. Try not to cut across what they are doing by adding other suggestions.

• Ensure that you have their attention and then only speak once.

• Let them talk and complete their own sentences.

• Give them short tasks to complete within a reasonable time limit.

• Stop and look at things. It could be a bulldozer or a flower. But take time to look at it closely and talk about what you see.

• Train your child to be attentive to what is happening around them.

The problem with not having developed the ability to be attentive does not only affect one’s formative years, but becomes a disability that affects every area of one’s life. The habit of attention not only affects one’s academic abilities, but also one’s quality of life. As we learn to engage properly with the moment instead of always pining for what is next, we learn at soak up life and are so able to live life to the full.


“A poor life this is if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” — William Henry Davies

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