Do I need to be concerned about my child's concentration?
Living in our multi-cultural, technological world today, our children are bombarded with music and colourful images wherever they go. All this visual and auditory stimulation, along with adult led structured activities such as swimming etc, mean that many children don’t get the opportunity to focus, tune in and really concentrate on their own child initiated activities.
What will happen if my child struggles to concentrate?
If children don’t develop an ability to focus and concentrate on their chosen activity, this could have implications in their future.
On a basic level, children need to be able to concentrate and create their own entertainment when those adult led structured activities are not there. Children need to enjoy settling down to do a puzzle or read a book; developing their creativity with painting, drawing, constructing, writing a story or acting out role plays.
On a social level, if children can’t concentrate or focus, then they will struggle to listen in class for lengths of time and may feel frustrated. Likewise, if they struggle to concentrate they may find it harder to build good communication skills and engage with their peers in a meaningful way.
It is important to remember that both a child’s memory and concentration skills will develop with age. However, there are lots of easy simple activities which you can do at home with your child to support and encourage that development.
Can I help my child improve their concentration?
Attention span/focus/concentration is the amount of time your child can focus on something before they loose interest. It is important to know that children develop at different rates; some children can stay absorbed in an activity for a long time whilst others will quickly move from one thing to another, unable to focus for a length of time. There is no right or wrong as children will develop at their own rate, children cannot be made to concentrate, but there are ways in which you can help them to reach their full potential.
Activities to improve concentration
Activities to help your child develop their concentration skills can be broadly split into two different types, productive activities and receptive activities.
How to improve your child's concentration using productive activities
Productive activities are ones where your child is actively involved in doing something. These kinds of activities do not have to have an end product, but some do. Children can greatly benefit from knowing where the start and finish of an activity is. Knowing what the outcome will be can help your child focus and concentrate through to the end.
Lots of children are good at concentrating and are happy to face an activity which demands their attention. However, if your child is struggling with concentration it’s important to provide activities which they have a good chance of success with. For example, if you are introducing a jigsaw puzzle, match it to your child’s level of concentration not the age on the box.
Great examples of productive activities are:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Matching games e.g simple pairs game
- Shape sorters
- Junk modelling, sticking and gluing using boxes, paper, card, ribbon, materials etc.
- Stringing/lining up beads/cups/counters…as a challenge, you could ask for a specific sequence of colours or shapes.
- Board games – these are lovely for building social skills and turn taking too.
- Dominoes – these come in many different styles, pictures to match, dots to count, and number dominoes.
- Chess and Draughts…fantastic for older children.
- Children often have favourite play items and you can use this enthusiasm to build their concentration skills by encouraging them to do specific tasks with them. This will help them to develop their attention span. We’ve given a few examples below to get you started:
- Sand play – make the tallest/longest sand castle.
- Toy Cars – order them from fastest to slowest or run them down a ramp and see which travels the furthest. You could extend this by asking your child to predict what they think might happen.
- Water Play – find five things which sink/float, again extend this by asking your child to predict what might happen.
- Cuddly Toys – order them from smallest to biggest or sort them into colours. Describe them, are they soft and fluffy, or squashy and bumpy? What colour are they?
- Craft Activities – open ended process art activities are great, but closed/specific craft activities with a specified finished product can be useful too to improve concentration. Children can benefit from following steps through one at a time. Choose a craft or art activity which interests them.
How to improve your child's concentration with receptive activities
These are activities where your child watches or listens to take in information. Here are some ideas:
- Messages- asking your child to take a verbal message to someone. It is good to start with a simple instruction like “tell Dad that dinner is ready”. This can be built up as your child’s concentration grows to “tell Dad dinner is ready and could he water the plants and turn off the outside light before he comes in”.
- Story Time – read a page or two of a story and ask questions about it.
- Pictures – look at a picture together for 1 minute and then ask each other questions. such as what colour were the boy’s trousers? How many cups were on the table? Your child will love catching you out!
- Shopping Time – when you go shopping ask your child to remember two or three things on the list.
- Kim's Game – put a few items on a tray and give your child a minute to look at them. cover them up with a cloth and remove one item. Can your child say what is missing?
- Guess Who game – this is a fun game where children try to find a particular character by asking their opponent questions. They have to concentrate hard on the right questions to ask and of course listen carefully to the answers.
- Who Am I? – This game is where you write the name of an object/person/place/animal on a post it note and stick one on each player’s forehead. Each player then takes turns asking questions to try to find out what animal etc they are. You could use pictures or play in pairs with younger children.
Building concentration should be fun!
Whatever activity you are providing for your child, you will find some children will be able to concentrate well whilst others may struggle. Children need to be interested in the activity you want them to engage in them. It is important to remember that timing and surroundings, need to be right before asking your child to concentrate and focus. They might find it harder to focus, if it is close to bedtime or a meal time, or if their friends are playing outside. If your activity doesn’t hold your child’s attention, gently bring it to an end and move onto something different or try again on a different day.
Varying materials will stimulate your child’s interest and allow enough time for each activity. You need to allow enough time for your child to become fully involved but not too long, so that they get bored or loose interest. Also, your activities need to be achievable and varied according to your child’s likes and needs. Activities can easily be incorporated into your daily life.
The information written has been gathered from a variety of sources, including: www.mudkitchen.com