15 Jan

Ten Tips for Getting Kids to Pay Attention

Chi-soAn inattentive child is a frustration all parents have dealt with. Continually having to repeat directions can be exasperating and hinder a child’s progress in school.

According to a study conducted by Meghan McClelland an associate professor at Oregon State University, preschool children who were rated high by their parents on attention and persistence had nearly a 50 percent greater chance of earning their bachelor’s degree by age 25. “Surprisingly,” she says, “children’s math or reading scores at ages 7 or 21 did not significantly predict whether or not they completed college. However, a child’s ability to pay attention, focus and persist on a task at age 4 increased the odds of completing college.”

Claudia M. Gold, a pediatrician and author of “Keeping Your Child in Mind,” says that children who have difficulty paying attention may not have learned how to control their feelings because “learning and attention both require the ability to regulate emotions.”

With that in mind, here are 10 things you can do to help your child develop their attention skills.

  1. Help Your Child Identify Their Feelings Children can become overwhelmed with external stimulation and unable to stay on task. If your child is upset or worried, find the root of the problem. Your child will learn to deal with his or her emotions better if you acknowledge those feelings. Overwhelming emotions seem not-so-large when a parent can put them in perspective. Children need to understand there are boundaries for behavior, and even when upset, they can’t let their emotions take over.
  2. Limit Screen Time Sometimes a child can sit for an hour absorbed in a television show, but can’t seem to pay attention to a 15-minute math lesson. Kathy Slattengren, president of Priceless Parenting, says the type of focus that keeps children riveted to the screen is called hyperfocus. It’s a state in which one is able to concentrate on one subject exclusively, unaware of any surrounding activity. “The type of focus kids need to succeed in school is intentional focus,” she adds. Studies suggest too much television can retrain the brain, making it more difficult for a child to develop this type of focus. Turn off the television and have your child engage in activities that require active participation to develop intentional focus.
  3. Provide Clear Directions Break assignments into small steps, and ask your child to repeat the directions. This will help your child with organizational and sequencing skills and ensure your directions are understood.
  4. Recognize the Limits Even adults have limits to the length of time they can focus on lessons and lectures. As a rule of thumb, you can use your child’s age as a guide. For example, a 5-year-old’s mind will wander after five minutes, so break tasks into five-minute chunks; a 10-year-old should be able to stay focused for 10 minutes.
  5. Set a Timer A kitchen timer will help your child learn time-management skills. Knowing there is a time limit will remind children to redirect their wandering attention back to the task at hand. A timer also tells the child the task has an end, relieving them of the hopeless feeling that it will go on forever.
  6. Play Games McClelland’s research shows playing movement and music games helps preschool children develop attention skills. “Playing games such as ‘Red Light, Green Light’ and ‘Simon Says’ are fun and engaging ways to promote these skills. Parents can also reverse the rules to make the games more challenging.”
  7. Follow the Leader To help young children intentionally focus, Slattengren recommends games that require children to follow the leader’s actions. With the Clapping Game, the leader claps out a rhythm and the children repeat it. You can increase the difficulty of the rhythm with each round.
  8. Provide Puzzles and Building Sets Putting together puzzles and creating structures with building blocks, such as Legos or Lincoln Logs, requires children to intentionally focus. Other quiet attention-building activities are card games such as Concentration and Go Fish.
  9. Monitor Your Behavior Children take cues from the adults around them. If you find yourself only half-paying attention to your child while checking email on your phone, be aware you are modelling this behavior in front of your child.
  10. Provide Security Above all, children need the security of knowing they have a loving adult to depend on. Without a stable routine and assurance someone is there should they need protection, children won’t be completely free to fully focus on their work. The anxiety of insecurity will be too great a distraction.

Attending to your children’s emotional needs, ensuring they have a sense of security, and engaging them in attention-building activities will help them develop the essential focusing skills that will serve them well now and throughout their lives. – By Gillian Burdett.

15 Jan

Children’s Learning Styles

treemLearning styles is a term that refers to different ways in which we learn, process, and retain information. All young children learn through meaningful hands-on experiences—through touching, doing, and moving. And children also learn through seeing and hearing. As you observe your child, you will begin to identify strengths and preferences that tell you something about your child’s preferred learning style.

You want to foster your child’s strengths, but remember that it helps to challenge him to grow as well. Your child can excel in a variety of areas. Therefore, offer a variety of experiences to help your child develop new strengths and interests that will broaden his or her understanding of the world.

Types of Learning Styles

These are the four main types of learning styles:

  • Visual (learn through seeing)
  • Auditory (learn through hearing)
  • Tactile (learn through touch)
  • Kinesthetic (learn through doing and moving)

Visual learners learn through seeing. Children who are visual processors tend to observe a parent’s or teacher’s body language and facial expressions for content and learn through demonstrations and descriptions. They tend to have well-developed imaginations and often think in pictures. Too much movement or action in a classroom may cause distraction for them. For older children who read, written instructions may help clarify verbal directions.

Auditory learners learn through listening. Children who are auditory processors learn through participating in discussions and talking things through. Verbal directions may help clarify instructions or written information. Too much noise may be distracting and children with this strength may learn best in a quiet environment.

Tactile learners learn through touch. Children who are more tactile prefer activities or projects that allow them to use their hands. Your child may prefer doodling or drawing to aid memory.

Kinesthetic learners learn through moving and doing. Children who are more kinesthetic learn through physical sensations and may have trouble sitting still for long periods. A hands-on approach that allows your child to actively explore her physical world helps her learn best.

How Can You Determine Your Child’s Learning Style? The best way to learn about your child’s learning style is to observe what he or she is doing. Actions, interests, and preferences will provide information about how he or she is processing information.

If your child has developmental delays, you may find that you often focus on what your child isn’t yet doing. Instead, try to focus on his strengths and favorite activities. All children, even the most challenged, have interests and preferences. Identifying these helps increase a child’s motivation for learning.

Speak with family members and your child’s team to develop an inventory of toys, objects, and activities that are meaningful for your child. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What types of toys does she prefer? Does she prefer quiet activities or lots of movement?
  • Does he like to read books and draw pictures? Does he prefer to be shown how to do something rather than being told verbally?
  • Is she active? Does she like to move and participate in more active activities?
  • Is he drawn to numbers and patterns?