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Monday, March 3, 2008

How to Improve on Concentration

Many relatives & friends have commented that their children cannot sit still, and on the difficulty in getting them to concentrate for a longer period of time. Though they compliment my son on his ability to sit still & concentrate since a very young age, as his mother I must confess that he's not *always* sitting still, I'd be terrified if he did, hahaha. So the issue is not just whether the children can sit still but whether they can do so when required of them.

I think the first step in approaching this subject is to have a realistic expectation. Every child is born with a different temperament. And age does matter. A young child may be busy learning through exploring his world, and is only able to concentrate on whatever is of enough interest to him. He naturally wanders away if he's not interested.

Next, I do believe a modification in his diet will be able to help to some extent. Try to limit consumption of foods & drinks that are highly processed, and those that contain colourings and chemical additives. As far as possible, give a variety of fresh fruits & vegetables, cooked lightly & simply (limit fried foods and foods with high sugar & salt content). Whether this measure would directly improve his concentration span is an unknown (though I believe it does), but it certainly will help to boost his immune system and general health, which in turn will make it easier for him to concentrate.

Then there is the modern world TV and electronic games which I believe is a culprit of robbing away the kids' ability to concentrate. They may appear to be able to sit still or "concentrate" on a TV program or an electronic game they're playing (whether on the computer, on X***, P**, in games arcade etc), but in actual fact they are highly stimulated. I think this is detrimental to their mental & physical development as well. My son will always end up with a hot head, flushed face, & cold hands & feet after playing electronic games (sometimes even *watching* other people playing would result in similar physical symptoms). I try to limit such "playing" times and encourage other "real" play activities instead.

So can concentration be taught? Well there ARE some games & activities which can enhance his ability to concentrate for a longer period. Tailor these to his age & interests. For example, jigsaw puzzles, board games, chess games & card games would encourage him to concentrate longer. Building blocks, moulding plasticine, making things from scratch, science experiments, , drawing, painting, handicrafts etc are all fun ways to let him learn how to do something for a longer period of time. However, try to do one activity at a time, and tidy up or keep it away after you're done before starting on another one. This encourages him to focus on one thing at a time, & not be distracted unnecessarily.

My favourite "concentration-enhancement" activity is reading & story-telling. If you borrow library books, the only "investment" you need is your love, time & imagination. Almost all children enjoy stories. Choose books that are appropriate for his age, or books that he likes. Read a chapter or for a period of time. While reading, allow him to ask questions, but sometimes tell him the answers later like: "let's see if they say why", "after this paragraph" or "after this page" to create suspense or encourage him to wait. Even when he's old enough to read independently, don't stop reading with him or telling him stories you made up. Telling him "family history" or other topics he's interested in would also keep him captivated and engrossed. Talking about his favourite stories & characters could grab his attention for a long time too. As a bonus you'd see his eyes sparkle & hear his non-stop ramblings. Who say they cannot concentrate? :-) It's a skill & trait that they can improve on.

I hope you find the above sharing beneficial to your kid :-)


Rosabel said...

Dear Kia Li,

I really wish there are more parents like you out there to guide their child and understand more on daily child development. That's why I working on this to hope that more parents can get the idea and apply at home for the benefits of their child.

Shannon said...

I totally agree with everything that you have said. We really can't expect children, especially the very young ones to sit still. I'm not a parent yet but I remember my mother telling me a story about what I did when I was still a kid. She said that she used to read to me but I never would sit still. While she was reading I was doing something else like climbing, playing with blocks etc. But whenever she asked me anything about the story, I would reply, which means that I was listening. Up to now I can still remember some of the things that she read to me.

Perhaps other children are able to do this too? Maybe some kids are able to absorb information even when it looks like they are not concentrating. Just a thought.

Nice blog, I'm glad I was able to find you on MyBlogLog.

Rosabel said...

Hi! I do find some children who are active moving around, but their absorbing mind is also working very well. That's why I found children are really amazing!

Kia Li said...

Hi Rosabel and Shannon, yes both of you are right. Children absorb information differently. The very intelligent ones or the ones with kinaesthetic learning style probably will learn a lot even when they are not sitting still. In fact as long as the activity/ subject is not made into boring chores, many children will likely enjoy learning and even do it at lightning speed without the need for them to sit quietly and be "drilled".

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