Friday, July 5, 2013

Developing Concentration and Attention Skills

While visiting the Museum on a Friday morning, four-year-old twins are enjoying story hour in the Family Resource Center.  Mom asks, “Can you jump up and down three times, just like the mouse in the story?” Both children hop and count as the reader turns the page to continue the story.

It might be surprising to know that asking children to imitate simple actions or playing a game like I Spy, which involves pointing and identifying items around the room, can have an impact on developing concentration and attention skills.  Educational and child development professionals refer to a term known as processing speed when attention and focused concentration are a required part of a task.  Specifically, processing speed is described as the ability to automatically and fluently perform relatively easy cognitive tasks (Lynch & Warner, 2013).

The growth of processing skills can have a profound effect on parenting and can have benefits in preschool and beyond.  When a child is able to complete a task automatically, it allows for attendance to and concentration on learning new skills—building a foundation for future learning adventure!

Try encouraging the development of processing speed in the following ways:
-Count and sort toys as they are put away. For example with Legos you might ask, “Can you count all of the green ones as you put them into the box?”
-Point to and identify objects in the environment no matter where you are.  Ask, “How many circles do you see?”
-Play Simon Says.  As imitation skills become automatic, move faster as you switch positions during the game.

Reference: Lynch, Sharon A. and Warner, L. 2013. “How Adults Foster Young Children’s Intellectual Development.” In Young Children, Vol. 68, No. 2, 86-91. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

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