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Parenting blog

A blog for parents with effective techniques based on developmental psychology. 

Increasing focused attention in toddlers

Sara Zaidi

The biggest predictor of college completion isn't math or reading skills, but whether or not a child is able to pay attention and finish tasks at age four. Someone can be brilliant, but that doesn't necessarily mean they can focus when they need to and finish a task or job.

Toddlers who are better at concentrating e.g. playing for longer with one toy, taking directions and persisting with a task even after hitting obstacles, have a greater chance of getting a degree when older. In fact, four year olds with the best attention span and persistence are fifty per cent more likely to end up with a degree. A college degree in turn, leads to jobs paying higher wages and with more stability. 

Children’s constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks. The stimulation that video games or T.V. shows provide is about the pacing, how fast the scene changes every few minutes, or how quickly you reach the next stage, and if a child’s mind gets habituated to that pace, the child ultimately may not find the realities of the world stimulating enough. Video games also provide immediate reward – whether it’s reaching a new level or getting another “life”, these instant rewards make it alluring and addictive.

There are several great apps and educational programs to choose from even after the video games and cartoon shows are restricted. And while those can be great tools, a child is much more likely to enjoy the process of learning when taught in a fun, personal way by a loving parent. Those associations are what will make her memories and having a positive bonding experience while learning will encourage them to want more. 

Getting on the floor with your child to play is the only way to promote focused attention (hence promote learning) during infancy and early childhood. Choose toys carefully and consider them to be an investment in your child’s future. Purchase toys that can grow with your child and can be used in different ways at various stages. Find multiple ways of playing with one toy and encourage your child to use their imagination so they stay focused on that one item for longer periods. Limit accessibility to a large number of toys to prevent them from rushing from one thing to another. Allow them to persist and manage the frustration before rushing to help if they have difficulty with something. Give them the space to find ways to tackle the problem and come up with a solution. Guide them gently to solve the problem rather than doing it for them so they gain the will and the confidence to persist and succeed.     

The first few years of a child’s life are a period of incredible growth, a time when new habits are easily formed. This is the time to instill habits that will lead them to a path of success and fulfillment in their lives.