How do you help your child to stay focused?
By Derrick Tan, M. Ed International Education (Sydney), M.Sc Neuroscience (King’s)
Concentration and stimulation are required for learning and memory. Fundamentally, the better the connectivity between the neurons in our brain, the better your child acquires information in understanding and learning.
How well the neurons connect with each other depends on the stimulation the environment provides and the concentration ability fostered in your child. Studies have shown that 100 billion brain cells are fully grown during with the first 3 months of pregnancy. And these are 20% neurons and 80% glial cells, all ready to connect.
The moment the baby is born, the neurons will connect with each other at an alarming rate as the child takes in information from the 5 senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.
At the early age, every impression, every labelling of sounds, objects, movements, emotions are recorded in different parts of the brain.
Concentration and curiosity that provide that stimulation are required to allow the neurons to connect with each other strongly. The stronger the connection, the better the memory as the Hippocampus in our brain is responsible to index all impressions captured.
When the prefrontal cortex of a child develops, his/ her thinking processes start to develop. Prefrontal cortex is required for the executive functions which include thinking, analysis, reasoning, planning, emotions regulation, and controlling functions. However, prefrontal cortex takes 20 years to be fully developed. As a child is unable to think independently, they are unable to understand what is important.
How could parents help their child stay focused?
- Make learning fun and interesting
To arouse the curiosity in your child and help him/her to stay focused. These are important stimulation for hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. When the learning is fun and your child is encouraged, your child will naturally be interested and will be able to focus better. During the fun time, the brain develops a neurotransmitter known as Dopamine, making a person feel happy. The brain will naturally want to repeat the process. Thus, learning process is strengthened.
- Remove unnecessary distractions within the vision of your child
Provide a stable and quiet environment to help your child focus to develop his/her thinking skills and to recognise thought processes.
- Speak to your child in proper constructed sentences. Don’t baby talk.
Label all objects, movements and emotions as it helps your child to develop vocabularies and language skills. These proper language tools are required to tag sensory experiences in the Hippocampus. Do not worry that your child will not be able to understand. At this time, repetition is also a form of stimulation. The brain collects every impression for recall later by the prefrontal cortex. The higher the frequency of appearances, the more the brain will think that they are important.
- Acknowledge your child’s emotions.
Should your child have a meltdown, guide him/her to manage their anxiety. Example: “Please calm down, Take a deep breath first, Count to three…. Tell me why you are sad.”
- Cognitive Flexibility – Provide guidance to your child to overcome challenges
Let your child learn to handle different challenging situations and help them to think of different solutions to a roadblock. Practise with your child as many scenarios as possible. Provide procedural steps.
- Delay gratification
Let your child be accustomed to the process of completing the tasks by him or herself. Develop both concentration and delay gratification. The higher the frequency of appearances, the more the brain will think that they are important.
- Bond with your child through reading or playing memory games
You may want to tell your child the reward that he/she can look forward to after completing the task while you continuing guiding the child in an interesting way.
At MerlionKids, the curriculum developed here is based on these studies and principles which parents appreciate. Have a chat with the principal, visit