Get practical tips and activities from our expert to have a positive influence on the memory and focus of your child.
By Nivedita Mukerjee
Within their first couple of parent-teacher meetings, pre-school teachers repeatedly hear the following concerns, with varying degrees of anxiousness :
“My child can’t sit still for 5 minutes!”
“My child day dreams randomly while doing something and sits at a task unfinished.”
“I can’t seem to get my child to finish even a simple puzzle.”
Does any of the above sound familiar to you?
You must re-evaluate the suggestions periodically and discuss them with your child’s teacher to figure out what works for your child. As your child crosses various milestones in her preschool years, her requirements and, therefore, the techniques to enhance concentration, change.
Making cookies or chapatti/paratha.
This is an all-time favourite sensorial activity – kneading dough is fun, messy and works out the muscles of fingers and arms. Following a recipe also helps your child plan a sequence of actions and teaches her to explore the possibility of modifying it. An opportunity to be creative with various ingredients is very good for the child’s emotional and cognitive capabilities.
These require specific use of working memory. Put in familiar objects, whether the child’s toys or items that the child is familiar with like a cell phone, a spectacle case or a toffee and ask the child to guess the object by feeling it from outside or by putting her hand into the bag. The child recognises the object by using her sensory information of touch to imagine its shape and form.
Exercise tips to help your child focus:
Relationship of aerobic fitness and motor skills with memory and attention in pre-schoolers (Ballabeina): A cross-sectional and longitudinal study done by Iris Niederer, Susi Kriemler, Janine Gut, Tim Hartmann, Christial Schindler, Jerome Barral and Jardena Puder led to the conclusion that
“…In young children, higher baseline aerobic fitness and motor skills were related to a better spatial working memory and/or attention at baseline, and to some extent also to their future improvements over the following 9 months.”
The study suggests that exercises involving specific mental processing, including executive functions like reasoning, problem solving, planning, etc., which teach the child to manage time and pay attention, are most suitable to trigger overall cognitive development in young children.
Foods high in sugar set kids up for a mid-morning energy crash. Kids involved in a lot of learning at midday tend to burn calories quickly. Proteins and complex carbohydrates that take time to digest make ideal breakfast combinations for such kids. These foods prevent sugar levels from falling so that the child does not feel lethargic, anxious and distracted.
Include your child in planning for her meal right from the time you visit the grocery store. Ask her to pick the fruits and vegetables she would like to eat. It is a sensorial experience for the child and she will remember and enjoy her meals better. Include the following four nutritious groups in each meal:
Foods to be limited/avoided are:
Fussy eaters who are under the age of 5 years might need supplements of Vitamins A and D with advice from a paediatrician.
Executive functions such as attention, impulse control, working memory and planning are all a combination of nature and nurture. While it might be hard to change the child’s IQ, it is possible to improve her ability to concentrate and increase executive functions with systematic efforts.
Nivedita Mukerjee is a journalist, educator and parent. She writes about matters that concern a child’s success and well-being. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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