helping your child concentrate

My first baby, now 40 [!] used to crawl for close to a mile around the pond we lived next to.  He also could sit and explore things in his environment for long periods.  Now I have grandchildren and want to write about what I did that helped develop that level of perseverance in my young children.  I made plenty of mistakes, but I think I did something right here.

I was trained as a Montessori teacher; that background helped.  One principle that guided me was Don’t interrupt a child when she’s exploring.  A corollary to that is  Prepare an environment that is safe for her.  Put your breakables up high. You want to reduce the NOs you tell your child to zero.

Second,  Have an interesting environment for your crawler/toddler.  Make many of your ground level cabinets full of containers and tools that will interest your child.  And bring your child outside in nature as much as you can figure out.  There is no substitute for the interest of the natural world, its ability to raise a child’s level of joy in learning.

Third:  Don’t have a toy box.  Toys are children’s tools.  Imagine having all your pots, spatulas, forks, ingredients in one box.  Have shelves with some toys on it.  Put other toys away.  Exchange them regularly.

A word about sharing.  A good general rule is that a child gets to continue using a toy, tool, or anything else until she’s finished.

And TV:  eliminate it for young children to the extent possible. It looks like concentration when we see them plastered to the screen; it isn’t.  It’s more akin to the way I feel when I’m in front of a pint of butter pecan ice cream.

Finally– probably first– a child that feels disconnected or full of hard feelings can’t concentrate.  But I’ve got other posts on that!

Hope this is useful.  I do know, with the level of support most parents get, the time and resource to implement these suggestions might approach impossible.  Talking with a sympathetic, non-judgemental listener as you figure out what you can do helps.


4 thoughts on “helping your child concentrate

  1. Great recommendations! I try to follow them. I also make an effort to exclude news, talk radio, and even background music when she is with me. We might sing, and musical instruments are avaialble, but I hate to have the soundscape cluttered with electronic distractions.

  2. Nice post, as usual! Such a foundation skill, to be able to concentrate! I’d be interested to hear you explain the third tip, about why shelves are better than toy boxes?

    1. have i replied to this yet cristina? boxes, the kind that are just filled with every kind of toy, is just chaos from the child’s perspective. imagine all of our tools, kitchen, writing, computer, etc all jumbled together in one box. not good!

  3. Ithacanancy’s tips are excellent. And shelves: small children from maybe 2 to 5 or 6, go through what Montessori called a “sensitive period” for order. That is, at that time, they deeply crave order. It is the way in which their brain can order itself. It’s why children love to sort. Also, children choose a toy or activity according to their current need to gain or consolidate a skill. It’s very hard to choose from a mess of stuff. I think that would be the same for us. [Thanks, nancy and cristina for your comments]

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