Improve concentration

Article By: Melanie Hartgill - Educational Psychologist

In order for a child to be successful in school, they need to be able to sustain their concentration in the classroom and when learning new material. But what exactly does this mean? Attention involves focus on something in particular while ignoring other things.

Up to the age of three, a child’s concentration skills are limited as their attention is caught by many things at the same time as they explore and learn from their environment. Between the ages of 3 and 7, attentiveness improves dramatically and they will be able to focus more selectively and ignore distractions. As a general rule of thumb, a child should be able to sustain their focus or attention for 2 to 3 minutes for every year of life, so a 3 year old can concentrate for approximately 6 to 9 minutes, while a 7 year old can focus for 14 to 21 minutes. This span is determined by a number of factors but is not static and can be positively influenced and strengthened by practise.

Here are some games and activities designed to improve your child’s concentration. Remember to eliminate as much background noise, such as music, television, etc. as possible before starting these games. Also bear in mind that it’s not possible for a child to always sustain their focus and never be distracted, so start off with shorter, easier games and make them progressively longer and harder.

  • Tap a rhythmic pattern on the table top and get your child to repeat it.
  • Search for a letter, or word or picture on a book or magazine – commercial books and games are available for this but it can just as easily be done at home with everyday things.
  • Place some items on the table, let your child look at them for 30 seconds or so then cover them up and get your child to remember what was there. You can also take an item away and they need to look again and identify what was missing. Teach your child strategies to play this game, such as touching each item as they look at it or naming each item.
  • Build patterns with blocks of different colours and shapes and then scramble them up and ask your child to repeat the sequence. This can be done with picture cards, toy animals (for little children), paper shapes, etc.
  • Cut up a cartoon or comic strip and get your child to put them in the correct order. This can be done with pictures only for younger children. If the sequence they create is wrong, ask them to tell you the story as they may see the pictures differently but their story may make sense.
  • Play card games, such as pairs using pictures first then number cards.
  • Learn songs and rhymes.
  • Get your child to close their eyes and listen to all the noises they can hear and ask them to identify the noises – you could make a noise when they have their eyes closed for them to identify.
  • Read to your child daily and ask them questions about the story, either at the end or as you are reading.
  • Learn tongue twisters.
  • Play “Simon Says”.
  • Try playing the shopping game (‘I went to the shops and bought a loaf of bread’ the next person must repeat this and add one item to the list and so on).
  • Say the days of the week, months of the year, numbers or colours of the rainbow out of order and get your child to put them in the right order for you or leave out one of the words and they have to identify the missing word.
  • Show your child a picture for 30 seconds and then ask them to describe it to you in as much detail as possible.
  • Get them to look at a room and memorise where things are, send them away and move one object and they must come back and identify what was moved.
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