By Esther Andrews
Some people can concentrate on an assignment, to the exclusion of all distractions around them.
My husband, who is an avid reader, can sit at a public place and read, no matter how much noise exists around him. Some people can play at a chess tournament, and focus on their game, no matter how many people are standing around them, watching the game. Others, however, cannot concentrate on their reading in a coffee house, because “too much is going on around them”, and some people’s chess game is affected by the noise around them or the people watching the game, and they make mistakes and “blunders”.
Being able to focus is a very beneficial skill. Schoolchildren have to be able to take a test, even if their classmates are not keeping quiet. They have to be able to focus on their homework, even if some other kids are playing outside, or a sibling is listening to the radio.
But beyond these practical reasons, a person’s ability to focus and concentrate, affects their level of performance. In order to solve a problem, you have to be able to focus, and if you can’t concentrate, you can’t find s solution. The ability to concentrate is important to anything we want to accomplish. When a person increases their concentration skills, they see a big improvement in everything they do. There is no doubt, then, that anybody can benefit from the strengthening of their ability to concentrate and focus.
Children in general have shorter attention spans than adults. It is impossible to expect a child to sit and concentrate for a long time, because it is natural for children to move around and be active. In my opinion, part of the reason is that children’s minds work extremely fast, and they have the need to learn new material constantly. When they feel that they have learned all they can from one activity, they will move to the next one, looking for more knowledge.
Often you can observe a very young child playing with a toy. The child will be “all into it”, fully focused on the toy. For how long? That varies, depending on many factors. But as long as they are playing, they are fully focused. Watch children when they are listening to a story, they are listening intently, and are all captured by the story.
There are some exercises, or games, that you can play with your child, that will increase his ability to concentrate and focus. You can play the games suggested here, or you can invent your own games around these exercises, depending on your individual child, their age and their interest. Here are some suggestions:
1. Have your child close his eyes, and imagine a triangle. Then have him draw the triangle, with his eyes closed, on a piece of paper, slowly, and accurately. Then have him do it again, and watch if there is any improvement in the triangle he has drawn. The slower he does it, the better. It is practically impossible to perform this task, without concentrating and focusing on it, and the slower the task is performed, the longer the intense focus. If you want, you can have a competition, you can do it with your child, and the one who finished later is the winner, or the one who has a better triangle, wins. You can organize a group of kids to compete with each other. (When your child is drawing perfect triangles, you can advance to more complicated figures, a square, a Star of David, a star… whatever figure you can think of.)
2. This is a very interesting game, that will entertain, surprise and benefit all participants. Have your child hold his arm out. With closed eyes, tell your child to start feeling an intense heat on the palm of his hand, as if he is holding a hot potato. Focus on it for a few minutes, when it starts to feel uncomfortable (too hot), have him stop and shake his hand.
3. Have your child practice reading in different environments. Take him to the library, have him read there, take him to a fast food restaurant, and have him read there. If your child doesn’t read yet – read a story to him. That also takes concentration! (I don’t recommend reading in the car, some people get motion sick when they read in the car.) Any environment that you can think of is a good place to practice concentration. The Russian chess players practice playing in noisy places. They play in the park, coffee houses, wherever they can!
4. When you are visiting the park, or walk on the beach, have your child listen to the sounds of nature and life. The sound of the waves, or the sound of the birds and other animals in the park. Have him practice listening to the sounds intently for the longest time possible, and try to increase from there. If you have a recording of nature sounds, (there are many CD’s that have the sound of water and other sounds of nature) your child can do that at home, listening to a CD. You can play the “quiet game”, yourself and the child (or a group of children) listening to the sounds of nature CD. The last sitting is the winner.
5. The finger game. Have your child hold his hand out, and bend each finger very slowly, focusing only on that finger. When all fingers are bent, start straightening the fingers one at a time, very slowly. You can play this game with a toddler or a baby, too!
6. The breathing game. Have your child breath in very slowly, counting to ten, paying attention only to his breathing. Then have him exhale as slowly as he can.
7. Have a competition, who can gaze at an object the longest. You can put an object at the center of the room, and have your child and yourself, or a group of children, gaze at the object. The person who can stay with this assignment the longest without taking their eyes off the subject is the winner.
If you participate in these games with your child, you will notice an improvement in your ability to concentrate, too! Take some time to do these activities with your child, and observe the results! Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, to tell me about the results you are observing.
For the last 26 years, Esther Andrews has studied, researched and practiced the ways to develop a child’s intelligence. She also served as the principal of the School for Gifted Education. As a result of this experience, she developed her own method and philosophy, that proved to be extremely successful with her own 2 highly gifted children. In her web site, http://www.all-gifted-children.com, she helps parents develop their child’s genius, and provide for their kids the opportunity to achieve their maximum potential.
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