Every parent and teacher have experienced firsthand the struggles involved with getting a child to focus. At times it can seem as though children can focus on literally anything other than the task at hand. While this can be frustrating for parents and teachers alike, a new study shows that it’s not entirely their fault. A child’s inability to focus is influenced by their brain structure and their surroundings.
Fortunately, parents and teachers can alter their approach to create an environment more suitable for learning and focus. The two-pronged approach is simple; eliminate distractions when necessary, and provide breaks so children can flex both their growing bodies and minds.
The Ohio State University carried out two studies aimed at understanding the differences between the ability of adults and children to focus. The study involved children between the age of four and five and adults. Participants were shown various photographs and asked to focus on certain features, such as finding an X or an O in the picture. Unsurprisingly, adults were better at finding the letters in the photographs, but children surpassed the adult participants in another area. It turns out that the children in the study were better able to identify changes outside of the letters they were told to find. In fact, children identified differences in the photographs 77 percent of the time, compared to the adults at 59 percent.
Although the study concluded that children couldn’t focus their attention as well as adults, it found that children end up noticing and remembering more in general. This is because children are wired to collect as much information as possible, to learn quickly. In contrast, adults brains have been trained to be focused and task-orientated. It’s a learned behavior that allows adults to focus and absorb only valuable information during long meetings or conversations. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that children struggle with focusing; they haven’t learned how to do so yet effectively.
It’s no secret that children are naturally inquisitive. They’re built to explore and absorb as much information as possible. To help children focus at school and at home, they mustn’t be denied their biology. According to a new study, time spent outdoors can actually improve a child’s ability to focus. This is because when children are made to focus for too long without a break, they can experience attention fatigue. Being outside provides an ideal mental break, after which children tend to focus much better.
Aside from regular outdoor breaks, teachers can promote focus by limiting distractions in the classroom. While most elementary school classrooms are filled with bright colors and decorations, researchers have found this actually distracts most students. This is because children’s brains are ill-equipped to block out distractions, which means providing a less stimulating classroom may be the key to creating an ideal learning environment.
Even though it can seem natural to provide young children with engaging surroundings to get them excited about learning, it’s important to remember that their minds are easily overwhelmed. By providing only the information necessary for learning and allowing plenty of outdoor time to explore, parents and teachers can create an ideal environment for learning and focus.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.