Monday, May 31, 2010

Ten Ideas For Building and Improving a Child's Attention Span

Since everyone is entitled to my opinion, I firmly believe that much of modern life is the culprit in a mass tendency here in the U.S.  to shortened attention spans, and not only in children.   Some things we can do:  eat better, turn off the electronic devices, get outside and play more, and return to the very human occupation of making things.  
1.  Make sure your child is getting plenty of time to play outdoors.  Studies show that there is a direct correlation between exercise, IQ, and school performance.  Remember, movement is what activates the brain!  I recommend to parents that they take their children to the playground for 20 minutes before dropping them off at school. If this is truly not possible, then have the child walk to school, or at least part of the way.  One friend plays a game of hide and go seek with her five year old on the way to school every morning.


2.  Children who have a hard time attending often are shallow or inefficient breathers.  Toys that encourage sustained exhalations are superb for improving respiratory function.  I like bubbles, blow darts, whistles, Blo-Pens, and inexpensive wind instruments, like ocarinas, harmonicas, and recorders.

3.  Brain Gym exercises for improving handwriting, like lazy8's  or  elephant 8's, are fun and easy to do before starting homework.  If your child has difficulty regulating his behavior at school,  doing hook-ups can be helpful before class starts.

4. Craft activities are the perfect means for encouraging a child to develop his tolerance for frustration, attention span, eye hand coordination, and problem solving skills.   Some ideas:  knitting,  weaving, {you can make a loom out of a piece of cardboard and give the child things like feathers and bark chips to weave into it, as well as yarn}, putting together and painting wooden models, suncatchers, perler beads, tile mosaics, felt stuffed animals or puppets to sew.  Check out this website, which sells lots of kits and supplies.


5.  Old fashioned board games not only require a good attention span, they develop sitting tolerance, and teach social skills like sportsmanship and turn taking.  Other good choices: jigsaw puzzles, word games, and card games that take some skill, like cribbage.

6.  Read to your child.  Start early, do it often.  I can't stress that enough.   Many children's books are mind numbingly boring, but a surprising number are not.  I love Dr. Seuss,  Maurice Sendak, Beatrice de Regniers, Crockett Johnson, and Russell Hoban, among others, for very young children.  And how about playing a little Mozart, Beethoven, or Bach on the CD player while you're at home with the kids?  You can borrow good classical recordings from the library and upload them to your computer.


7.  Invite your child to help you in the kitchen or in the garden.  Encourage him to take responsibility for things and make him feel like a true collaborator in your efforts together.  Help him to set high standards for his work.  How motivating this is!  An added bonus: picky eaters are much more likely to try things that they have had a hand in producing.

8.  Play catch, Twister, hide and go seek, statues, tag, touch football, soccer, and dodgeball  -- in other words,  gross  motor games that require a certain amount of coordination and motor planning.  Organize some games with the other children in the neighborhood.

9.  Try to limit battery operated toys that have lots of bells and whistles but don't invite much interaction, and substitute toys that require the child to employ fine motor skills and to use his imagination.  In the waiting room of sensory gym where I practice, there is an old fashioned wooden castle complete with moat and drawbridge with a lot of toy soldiers, warriors in armor on horseback,  and members of a royal family.  The children can't tear themselves away from it, and start inventing elaborate scenarios as soon as they pick up the first figure.   These magnetic scenes are wonderful for sparking creativity in young children, who can tell endless stories as they manipulate the figures.   Old fashioned building toys, like Tinkertoys, are good, too.

10. Don't jump in immediately every time your child experiences frustration, and resist the temptation to give in every time your child insists on having things his way.  Learning to tolerate frustration,  to be able to sit and struggle with something until it is mastered, to try again and again while keeping faith in your abilities,  or to be able to gracefully defer when necessary to the needs of others for the benefit of the group, is critical to the ability to succeed at life.


11 comments:

Laura Drexler said...

These are great suggestions. Thank you for a good article!
-Laura
Extreme Stay-at-home Mom
San Diego

Anonymous said...

Great advice!!!

Anonymous said...

Lots of good, practical advice to help develop a better, healthier generation than the crazy one we've got.
But I would add 1 suggestion. Get your child a pet & make sure they genuinely care for it. They will learn things & acquire habits of sentiment difficult to gain any other way. It is the most natural sort of thing in a world that has become so alienated, abstract, & artificial.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good, practical advice to help develop a better, healthier generation than the crazy one we've got.
But I would add 1 suggestion. Get your child a pet & make sure they genuinely care for it. They will learn things & acquire habits of sentiment difficult to gain any other way. It is the most natural sort of thing in a world that has become so alienated, abstract, & artificial.

Anonymous said...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

They are amazing suggestions.
Being a School Counselor, at times, its really difficult to give different strategies to parents. These are some different ones from the usual routine. Thanx for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The reading, board games and exercise I am certain are excellent suggestions based on my experience/common sense!

liltruthie said...

The links for the '8s' examples, and the 'hook up' examples didn't work. Thanks for posting this.

liltruthie said...

Not sure if this is posting twice (my apologies if so). The '8s' link and 'hook-ups' on number 3. didn't work today. Thank you for the post.

edlene isah said...

hi can i try this with my 14 year old son

mommymio said...

I will try your suggestion #1. I am Rose Anne, from the Philippines. Thank you for this informative post.