8 tips to build your children’s attention span

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How do you improve you children's concentration? Experts from Marshall Cavendish Education share tips on how to build concentration in your children.

“You need to pay attention!” is a phrase that we often use as parents.

We are constantly telling our children to remain focussed, no matter what they are doing: studying, playing the piano, painting, or swimming.

But what benefits can children, or for that matter anyone derive from paying attention and concentrating? How does concentrating our attention aid learning?

Education experts from Marshall Cavendish Education answer these questions from readers of theAsianparent.

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How does paying attention help in learning?

According to Chitra Pillay Chua, English Associate Lecturer at Marshall Cavendish Institute, “Attention is our brain focusing on something to the exclusion of other stimuli around us. It enables us to apply information that we have learnt. Learning is the process by which our brain memorises, integrates, internalises and applies new information. Thus, we can see that both processes lead to the same destination. Simply put, pay attention, if you want to learn effectively!”

During the learning process, we often handle a great amount of information. Attention helps retain the information and translates it from short-term to long-term memory.

In other words, information that is temporarily held in our brain will soon be lost unless a conscious effort is made in retaining it for more permanent storage. By simply paying attention, we can greatly increase the chances of long-term memory.

So, if our children do not pay attention in a lesson they will only be able to recall bits and pieces of what was taught. If we were to ask them familiar questions about what was asked in class, they would struggle to give a comprehensive answer.

So how can we help our children remain focussed?

Here are some tips that you can easily implement at home.

MCE Concentration3 8 tips to build your children’s attention span

Avoiding multitasking and removing all digital devices helps build concentration in children.

Avoid multitasking

Before we tell you how you can actually encourage attention in your children, we tell you what not to do.

One of the things to avoid is multitasking. According to Chitra Pillay Chua, over time multiple studies have proven that contrary to popular belief, multitasking lowers efficiency and productivity.

She adds, “In fact, a study by the University of London has shown that multitasking lowers participants’ IQ the same way drug abuse or a sleepless night does! So switch off that TV or computer and put away that smart phone during homework time.”

So what should we do instead?

“Focus on one thing at a time,” she says.

Get rid of digital devices

Michelle Choo, Maths Associate Lecturer at Marshall Cavendish Institute shares her opinion too.

She suggests getting rid of digital devices. According to her, “We, as parents, often fall prey to babysitting our little ones using these digital gadgets without realising the highly possible detrimental effects in the long term.”

Once you have eliminated the multitasking as well as the digital devices, here are six other things that you can do to build your child’s concentration.

Tips to build your children’s concentration

  1. Understand your child’s learning style: Some children need silence to be able to focus, while others may need background noise or music. Determine the environment that your children will focus best in.
  2. Encourage your children to take short breaks: Your children cannot keep going at the same speed continuously. Teach them to take short five-minute breaks every half an hour while studying. They will get back to the task feeling refreshed. A timer can also aid them in regulating their breaks.
  3. Teach them to take notes and organise them: It helps by jotting down notes or keywords during a class. It also helps to organise them after, so that sufficient attention is paid to the important points that were mentioned during the lesson.
  4. Establish purpose of learning: Motivation and self-directed learning plays a big role in paying attention, in fact it is the most powerful attention strategy. Many a time, children have no interest in what is being taught when they neither see nor understand the reason behind the learning. You can work with your children to help them understand the purpose of learning a certain lesson or a subject.
  5. Get them to follow the Five More rule: When you feel like giving up, just do five more of whatever task you are working on – read five more pages, work on five more questions or continue for five minutes more!
  6. Games to help build concentration: Playing games such as Kim’s Game will help your children learn how to focus.
    • Choose familiar and safe items such as spoon, eraser, plastic cup, ruler, book, sock and wallet.
    • Place all these items on the tray.
    • Give your children some time to look at them then cover them with a piece of handkerchief or tea towel. Secretly remove one of the items and then uncover and ask them to guess “What’s missing?”
    • You can play around with variations and difficulty levels over time.

Last but not least, if your children are finding it difficult to pay attention in school, perhaps due to a noisy partner or difficulty in seeing the board, do engage the teacher’s help to ensure that they are making best use of their lesson time.

Do you any questions about how to improve your children’s concentration or about any other aspects of their learning? You can ask our experts by clicking here and they will get back to you with helpful answers and suggestions.