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Teach Your Child How To Focus And Follow Directions!
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  • Editor’s note: Your kids are not likely to physically go to school anytime soon because of COVID-19. But it doesn’t mean a school is out of the question. You will find options on homeschool, blended learning, and distance education on Smart Parenting Classroom.

    School readiness very much applies even in a remote setup. And with the global health crisis, parents need to take an even more active role in assessing their child and his learning skills. Two of the signs of school readiness are the abilities to focus and follow directions.

    Children should be able to concentrate while engaged in specific tasks, such as playing with a toy or doing a table activity.

    Why is the ability to focus important? In a formal preschool setup, tasks can last anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. Children will benefit if they can sit down and stay focused on the activity.

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    Signs your child can focus

    These days, focus is a significant concern. Children who are growing up as digital natives are found to have more difficulty staying focused on non-gadget tasks, which can affect how your child learn and solve problems. 

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    Does your child pay attention or play with a toy that is not a gadget for more than five minutes? He has focus if your child can build with blocks, paint, or complete a puzzle independently. If he listens to a story being read and answers simple questions afterward, then clearly paid attention to your tale.

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    How to help your child focus

    Engage in joint attention activities

    That means having the same level of concentration as you expect from your child. You need to be present, not distracted when you play, or read a book together.

    Give your child time to work independently

    It is all right for your child to play alone. In fact, you should let him complete a task or project. Avoid the instinct to rescue, especially if you feel it is taking too long. Be patient. 

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    Signs your child can follow direction

    The ability to focus will help your child follow directions. Children should be able to listen, understand, and follow when an adult gives instructions like “please sit down” or “color all the round objects.”

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    Why is it important? Most schools only have one teacher for a group of children. So she may not always have the time to repeat instructions one-on-one to children. At home, you may not have a room of kids competing for your attention. But the skill to follow direction is invaluable when you’re working or busy with your to-do list.

    Does my child...

    • follow one- and two-step directions?
    • look at me while I give instructions?
    • do what is asked without further prompting?
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    How to help your child learn how to follow direction

    Start with one-step directions or follow-the-leader activities, then move on to 2-step directions. Encourage your child to build good listening habits, including looking at the person talking, and asking questions.

    In Playing With Words 365 blog, a pediatric speech-language pathologist suggested three fun games at home to help your child learn how to follow directions.

    Simon Says

    How to play: Tell your child you will give directions to perform an action (for preschoolers, pointing to a body part is a good start). They will only do the action after you say "Simon Says." If they do an action but you didn't say Simon Says, there is a consequence. Discuss the consequences before the game.

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    Click here to download a free worksheet to further boost their vocabulary skills when they play this game.      

    Red Light Green Light

    You may need a bit of room to do Red Light, Green Light, and it is best done with siblings. Establish a starting line. When you say ‘Green Light,’ the kids will move towards the finish line. But when you say ‘Red Light’ they must immediately stop. If they move when say ‘Red Light,’ it is back to the starting line. 

    I Spy

    Teaching children how to follow directions does not have to be tedious or boring. It can be fun and engaging. Remember, what you want your child to do is listen, understand, and follow-through.

    Barbara Server-Veloso is known as Teacher Thumby in her preschool, Toddlers Unlimited, and Ms. Thumby in her grade school, Thinkers Unlimited, Alabang. She is also a partner in Spark Discovery Center in Jupiter Street, Makati, where she teaches the Baby and Me Class. Teacher Thumby has a Master’s degree from the University of the Philippines in Family Life and Child Development. She has been teaching since 1993. She is also the mother of Lucas and Verena.

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