We know that “focus and self-control” is one of the 7 basic life skills in children. Focus and Self-Control skills are related to the executive functions of the brain, and the development of the executive functions of the brain continues until the early twenties. Considering this information is important in order to expect children to develop focus and self-control skills appropriate to their development. A small child also has two feet, an adult human has both feet. They both walk using their feet, but what they do and to what extent is affected by conditions such as leg length. The same can be said for executive function skills that include focus and self-control. It is possible to talk about an executive function skill when a small baby odks into a spoon full of food to be brought to his mouth. If you, as a parent, are working on a project in a limited time and you have focused all your focus on the project, we are talking about an executive function skill. However, it is a focus and self-control skill that functions in completely different areas depending on your level of development. Ellen Galinsky offers several suggestions to support the development of focus and self-control skills in children.
1-Help babies and toddlers learn to control themselves.
For this, you will need to observe your baby/child and discover the most appropriate calming strategy for your child by experimenting with your impressions. The child who can stay calm and calm can focus. That’s why one of your priorities is to monitor your child’s temperament and reactions so that he or she learns the most appropriate calming strategy. 2- Integrate these skills into daily activities and games.
Although modern culture seems to have largely separated play and learning, in fact, play and learning are inseparable. Like many things you want your child to learn, you can support these skills by considering and including them in everyday reasoning and games.
3- Direct the children to the activities that they will focus and follow according to their interests.
Working on interests improves focus and self-control. For example, last summer, a few perfume-loving girls from our neighborhood tried to collect flowers and produce scents on their own, and they tried to sell these scents to passers-by on the street. In this process, I am sure that many executive function skills such as discovery of interests, planning of the process leading to the goal, self-control, focusing on the process and production have developed. 4- Play games with children that need to pay attention.
Games such as chair snatching, puzzles, guessing games, riddles can be given as examples. The game of red light and green light can be given as an example. Conditional games such as “stop when you see a red light, go when you see green” force children to focus on certain stimuli while playing. They have to be very careful to stay in the game and not be disqualified.
5-Read stories with children in a way that encourages them to listen. Listening games encourage focus, recall, and inhibition control. While reading a story, stopping at a point in the sentence and asking the child to complete the sentence or encouraging him to sing a story he has just heard requires that the child stay focused during the listening period and remember what he heard when it is finished. This also allows the child to develop inhibition control against other stimuli that may interfere with focusing and remembering.
6- If you are going to choose a computer game or television program for your child, consider the options recommended by experts as they increase attention.If you are not going to expose the child to the screen for the first 36 months and then include the screen in your daily life, you should choose content that will be beneficial for their development and for limited periods.
7-Make sure that the television or other digital content is not turned on for adults.
Researchers state that adult programs running in the background also affect how long children focus on their games.
8- Play matching games with changing rules to develop cognitive flexibility. To give an example, we can say that waiting for the child to sort the toys in a basket full of small blocks of mixed colors and sizes according to colors first, and then wait for them to sort by size by changing the instruction. Reorganizing oneself according to expectation is a cognitive flexibility skill. But here, too, you need to consider the developmental level of your child.
9- Play pretend games with children, encourage them to pretend and make up stories for the development of cognitive flexibility.
Role playing, making up stories, playing symbolic games are indicators of cognitive flexibility. It is very important to encourage these capacities of the child in your daily flow and games.
10- Encourage the child to play games with rules, which should keep the instruction in mind.
“Simon says” is an example of such games. Like “Simon says, touch your mouth first, then your nose”… Of course, you also need to consider the level of your child’s development in areas such as auditory attention.
11- Encourage your children to make plans, follow these plans, and then talk about them in order to develop working memory. It is also possible to use images for this. For example, it can be a good activity to plan your day by posting small pictures of what you will do during the day on a daily flow board and to chat about what you plan and do in the evening. Of course, for this, you will need to prepare a playful daily flow board and visuals with your child.
12- For the development of inhibition control, play games that will prevent the child from switching to autopilot and that should keep his attention awake.
Games such as camel dwarf, day and night can be counted among these games. While playing games where he will have to do the opposite of what he hears, he will not be able to switch to autopilot because he will try to do the opposite by both paying attention to the instruction and reinterpreting what he heard in his mind.
13- Make sure your child is well rested and fit.After all, it would be unfair to expect a child who has not listened and is not fit enough to keep his attention awake, to regulate himself.
14- Apply focus and self-control in your own life and try to improve it.
Children learn best by modelling. Developing and applying these skills in yourself will contribute positively to your development as well as your child. Thus, with your efforts and attitudes, you create a positive and consistent role model for your child.