Inside: Kids can seem to jump from one thing to another with such quickness. If you’re wondering how to teach your toddler focusing skills, here are my thoughts!
The ability to focus, sit still and pay attention seems to be a lost art among today’s youth.
Experts say it has something to do with the additives and preservatives in our diet, and I am sure it does. But I think it also comes down to our society’s fast-paced-instant-gratification culture.
If we help teach our little ones to focus and set them up for success, they’ll have an easier time in school, activities, and home life.
Much like other life skills, focus is learned.
Self-control is the foundation that focusing skills can be built on.
It’s the same self-control that keeps your daughter from kicking her brother, that helps her sit and wait, and focus on whatever task is at hand.
How in the world can we teach mile-a-minute toddlers to sit still and focus?
How can we increase their attention spans? Well, as the ole tortoise found out… slow and steady wins the race.
How To Teach Your Toddler Focusing Skills
It will take a bit of work, but you can help your toddler learn to focus early on. Here’s how!
Set realistic expectations
Kids can and will rise to your expectations… unless your expectations are unreasonable.
Small children are curious, observant, and excitable. It’s why they are like sponges and learn so much!
The goal is to help instill some self-control and focusing skills without stifling their curiosity or expecting them to behave like older children who have learned the art of focus.
Routine and order sets the tone for the day
If your toddler is on a routine then he or she is already at an advantage.
Because of the nature of routine, one thing comes after the other and the tendency to jump ahead and back and forth is minimized.
Kids get used to doing things at certain times in certain orders and not the moment it enters their mind. This helps toddlers to focus on what is before them, knowing their needs are always met in a systematic fashion.
A child who is used to doing what they want when they want will have a hard time focusing for a period of time that someone else chooses. We are giving kids a gift when we teach our little ones to persevere with one activity through to its completion.
Routine is an easy way to give them the foundation of self-control.
Structured times (like independent play) go a long way in teaching focus
During the day there will be time for structured activities. Structured activities are activities with a purpose. Be it coloring, flash cards, crafts, or experiments, you have your child play with you for an amount of time that you choose.
You determine when the activity starts and you determine when it finishes.
If your toddler gets bored two minutes into a ten minute activity… well… you help them re-focus.
Encourage (and perhaps require) them to continue. It is, after all, a game. It isn’t like you are making them eat sour pickles. Doing this consistently helps them learn that sometimes they must go by the timeline of others.
Make focusing fun for your toddler!
Particularly when your toddlers don’t have the hang of focus yet, make the activities fun! Choose games, crafts, experiments, and books that will give the kids a fighting chance.
Starting off with something boring will make it all the more challenging while, if it’s interesting and fun, you may be surprised how long everyone can focus.
Practice patience in the day to day moments
In my post on how to teach children patience I go into a few tips. Suffice it to say, it’s okay to make your children wait sometimes. I’m not talking about making your children wait for the sake of waiting.
However, making your children wait for things is not depriving them of something. It’s actually giving them something. And that something is a life skill. All humans must wait for things at times.
It’s okay to sit your children at the table and wait 5 minutes while you prepare their food and serve it. That may seem like an eternity to them, but it is not.
Times like that help your children develop self-control as they are learning to wait and spend time companionably with you while they do so.
Teach your toddler beforehand what you expect, then follow through
I find it immensely helpful to explain beforehand what I expect of my children. This prepares them for what’s to come and helps them buy into the rules they’ll be expected to follow.
If my daughter knows we are going to sing in church and then sit and listen , when she gets the urge to sing or talk during the message I can say quietly “It’s listening time” and it is far easier for her to comply.
Because she’s prepared.
Avoid the “All Of A Suddens”
Explanation helps children prepare beforehand and this aids in their developing self-control.
If they think they’ll be able to talk and play all they want then “all of a sudden” you impose a silent rule on them, you are not giving them time to adjust.
This will seriously test their levels of self-control and set them up to fail.
Persevere, persevere, persevere with the focusing activities
Toddlers are toddlers and they won’t want to sit still for very long. Some of my kids are born focusers, and others can barely sit still. I believe this is due in part to their personalities.
Older babies and toddlers are not born with the developmental ability to focus for long periods.
That is okay.
It is our job as parents to stick with it, persevere, keep on doing what we’re doing and know that our kids will eventually benefit from the effort they put in.
Part of what it takes to succeed academically is to be able to set one’s mind to a task. If you can’t sit still and focus long enough to study or take a test then school will be a challenge.
For just a small part of your day, teach your toddler focusing skills!
It is a separate issue if a child has a learning disorders or other developmental delays, and of course you can’t expect the same behavior from them.
But the goal is to teach our children the self-control and self-discipline necessary to make themselves complete a task set before them.
It will put your children at an immense advantage to spend a small part of your day purposefully developing this quality in your child.