• 5 Tips to Help Improve Your Malikot Child's Focus and Attention Span

    Research says distracted parents are more likely to raise distracted kids
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
5 Tips to Help Improve Your Malikot Child's Focus and Attention Span
PHOTO BY iStock
  • With gadgets and the internet, everything is instant. Whatever it is, it’s there at the tap of a finger—no need to wait. Michelle Lichauco-Tambunting, co-founder and directress of Young Creative Minds Preschool, says she’s definitely seen screen time’s effects on a child’s ability to focus and stay attentive. 

    “I've been in the classroom for 20 years, and in the early years, we hardly had any attention problems. But now, we have more and more children who just can't stay put and focus,” she shared with SmartParenting.com.ph. “If the child already had so much screen time from 0 to 2 years old, then that's going to be the preschooler who hardly sits down, who cannot finish a puzzle or coloring, or who will not share because they cannot wait for their turn,” she added. 

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    “For a 4-year-old, when you tell them to sit down, they should stay put for at least 15 to 20 minutes. For a 6-year-old at least an hour or a class at school,” developmental and behavioral pediatrician Dr. Ma. Theresa Arranz-Lim also told SmartParenting.com.ph (in an article where she explained the difference between a makulit child and one with ADHD). 

    “A 2-year-old, malikot talaga 'yan,” the pediatrician added. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t support a young child’s ability to focus already so she’s better prepared for the classroom. Here are a few tips how: 

    1. Get her moving
    Let’s say you want storytime with your child to last at least for a few pages. Try letting her move around while you read aloud. “Some young kids, especially very active ones, are most attentive when they're moving around the room,” Claire Lerner, the co-author of Bringing Up Baby: Three Steps to Making Good Decisions in Your Child's First Year, told Parents. When the rabbit in the story is hopping around, ask her to show you how she hops as well!

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    2. Engage him when he starts to lose interest
    When you see your child losing interest with his blocks, try to keep the ball rolling and engage him. Say something like, “I see you stacked two blocks there. Can you stack three?” Another technique would be to jump in and be enthusiastic about what he’s doing. When he’s about to ditch playing with clay, for example, ask her what her favorite color is and make a silly clay creation together.  

    3. Support what your child loves
    If your child is not at all interested in her new cooking play set, don't force her to play with it — no matter how much of a hole it left in your wallet. Instead, see where your child’s true interests are and build up from there. “Deepening a child's knowledge helps him see familiar toys with fresh eyes and often leads to a greater ability to concentrate,” Jennifer Weaver, a licensed clinical social worker, also told Parents

    If your child loves playing with her toy planes, for example, find storybooks on aircraft (like this one from Adarna House) or head to an aircraft museum on the weekend (like the Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum). 

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    4. Play fun games that increase focus and paying attention
    When you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting for your food at a restaurant, don’t pull out the tablet just yet. Start a game instead that’s fun but will also get your child to pay attention, advised clinical psychologist Dr. Jamie Howard in an article for PBS.

    Play “I spy with my little eye…” or spot as many people wearing glasses as you can together. “Take turns making observations of various objects in the room, listen closely to the lyrics of a song together, or do some yoga poses and pay attention to how it feels in the body,” said Dr. Howard.

    5. Stay focused during playtime too—put down your phone!
    When you’re engaging with your child, don’t get distracted yourself. A study published in the journal Current Biology found that babies whose parents and caregivers were more attentive during playtime developed longer attention spans as well. 

    “Caregivers who seem distracted or whose eyes wander a lot while their children play appear to negatively impact infants' burgeoning attention spans during a key stage of development,” said lead author Dr. Chen Yu, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington. So, set aside your phone, mom and dad, and be in the moment with your little one!

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