Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Teaching Concentration A Little Too Late

I have a preschooler with a short attention span.  And it's not because of the iPad.  Here’s how I had something to do with that and how I’m trying to remedy it.

Ladybug Girl’s learning style is tricky.  

Contrary to the (Montessori) belief that children love doing the same activities as a form of mastery, in many things she gets bored with repetition.   Some of her leave-behind trays are done just once and she’s not interested anymore (!).

Her Innate Intelligence results (background here) also showed that she isn’t an independent learner -- she learns best one-on-one or following a role model.  This was one of the main reasons why I felt traditional methods wouldn’t suit her formative years.

Ladybug Girl in her many distracted moments - notice the exasperation from her teachers?
A hilarious contrast in concentration: Ladybug Girl's marshmallow art vs. her playmate's.  
I realized I had fault a few weekends ago.  

Ladybug Girl had picked up a Color Wonder paintbrush set that was lying around while I was organizing her supplies.  I had kept the set a few months back because she wasn’t so interested then.

She began to paint while telling stories about her work.  Shocker to me.
She had always lost interest in drawing or painting because her skills were not as good as she wanted.    But now as her hand skills improved, so had her interest in the art.
She became absorbed with reading the instructions and painting more stories.
I soon found myself calling her attention for some new use I just thought of - that’s when I stopped abruptly because I realized that I was so excited by her budding interest that my first response was to interrupt her with new ideas.
"Hey Ladybug Girl!  Try it on your dress!  Try it on the wall!  Tell me about your painting! Do you want to...?"  It was me who was the impatient one!
In hindsight, I would do this a lot during floor time.  And so would Awesome Guy.  And so would any parent excited to teach their kids about the world.

So actually the first step to teaching concentration is to stop the heck interrupting them.

And the next step I'm trying on weekends is to find activities she likes to get 'lost' in, and allow her some space (ironic to my hands-on tendencies).  The "Follow Your Child" principle is at work so her play can be more open-ended while I learn more about her interests.  

So far I'm sure about these concentration-building play areas:

"Messy" sensorial play.  This was originally a color-wheel mixing activity, and it evolved into experiments and storytelling.  Her favorite things.

Not an uncommon sight to see her plopped down doing this anywhere.  Now I let her seek me out after she's done rather than invite her to do other things in the middle of reading.  
I also think she should know the word "concentrate".  I found this that did the trick:

This makes "concentrating" clear and fun : not at all sermon-like
I also get a few more minutes here and there which is really useful now that I'm on a major home purge cycle.  It sounds too good to be true doesn't it?

I am really, really concentrating that it isn't.

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