When your young child is constantly distracted by, well, everything, it can be hard to make learning stick. Sometimes it can be difficult just to get their attention long enough to check in with them, let alone introduce a new concept.
While it can be frustrating to have a child who seems constantly preoccupied, it is possible to teach them how to become more adept at compartmentalizing and focusing. This revolves around two key skills: listening and attention.
Honing in on listening skills
Listening skills come into play when students have something they need to remember and focus on. For example, activities that require pattern recognition also require a good amount of focus. If students are seeking out a familiar pattern (ABAB, for instance), they will need to trust in their own ability to focus. If they begin to struggle, they will have to seek help and practice listening to the prompts given to them.
Similarly, memory games help students improve their recall and their ability to retell stories. I’m particularly fond of abstract puzzles, which provide a layer of complexity that often requires the use of listening skills. Putting children in pairs can also help develop this skill.
Finally, you can help your young learner develop listening skills by reading to them. By teaching young learners to recognize and focus on the sounds of the English language they will be more tuned to it. This includes the 44 phonic sounds, rhymes, onomatopoeia, and alliteration. Picture books and beginning chapter books are great starting points. For the particularly distracted child, don’t pressure them to finish the book in one sitting. You can always go back to it or re-read it.
Developing longer attention spans
Help your child increase their attention span by providing them with activities that grab their interest and keep it. For example, if their focus seems to wander when reading books, switch up the genre. By deviating beyond fairy tale stories and including a wider variety, you allow students to find their preferences.
In particular, including books with real-world information will give them a new perspective on reading and digesting information. If your child finds a topic they are particularly enthralled by, encourage their interest
Additionally, critical thinking games and puzzles provide ample opportunities for developing attention spans. Forcing your child to think outside of the box through new topics, classifications, and activities will help them understand and interpret their world in new ways. This often results in a spark of curiosity and interest, leading to longer attention spans.
The benefits of abstract puzzles
Abstract puzzles are a great way to help encourage students to be more focused. As you can see from the video below, when abstract puzzles are introduced into a child’s learning environment it requires both listening skills and a long attention span:
A few years ago a dad came to me seeking test prep services for his four-year-old daughter. As an educator, this isn’t unusual, but this specific instance was memorable to me for three reasons:
His guilt and regret about neglecting to test his first child (a bright and intellectually curious six-year-old) for the gifted kindergarten program. His son was an early reader and academically ahead of his preschool peers, but they didn’t seek testing.
The sacrifices his family made based on their financial priorities. They focused on three key areas: education, health, and retirement. This meant he invested big bucks in his children’s education.
His anxiety and stress around figuring out which resources to buy and how to best help his bright, shy 4-year-old daughter so she could excel academically on the day of the gifted test.
Like this parent, you invest in education because you expect the best for your child. You want them to learn and grow in the most beneficial way possible. I know, as I experienced the same with my children. I wanted them to see learning as a positive experience, one they looked forward to.
Unfortunately, many academic organizations focus too much time and energy on old-school techniques, like rote memorization, drilling, and lower-level thinking skills.
Test prep is particularly guilty of this. Young kids learn to cram and memorize skills which are often forgotten and rarely applied after the test.
In a perfect world, you want your child to learn skills that are sustainable. When tested, you want them to feel calm and ready to put their best foot forward, not anxious and overwhelmed. This is why I built The Critical Thinking Boot Camp for Kids: to be fun and engaging and, above all, useful beyond the test. It’s about think prep rather than test prep.
Here are a few ways in which The Critical Thinking Child Boot Camp for Kids stands apart.
We build confidence
With activities that take into consideration all possible learning styles, our program is geared to your child’s exact needs. This helps to break down barriers and make learning accessible to all of the students. Even better, children are able to practice learning in their dominant and their non-dominant learning styles, which helps to boost their confidence.
We also help to create an atmosphere of healthy competition. Instead of comparing students to one another, we focus on individual progress. We teach our students to identify their own academic strengths and opportunities for improvement. We also teach them to celebrate their mistakes, using positive praise to help them learn and grow. This fosters a growth mindset and helps them understand that learning is a lifelong process and it is okay to make mistakes.
Additionally, we take time to model and demonstrate all of our lessons. These examples, combined with critical thinking questions, help students become familiar with a variety of concepts, even when they are presented in new ways. We start practicing at a young age to help students develop these skills early.
We take learning beyond the classroom
When I first created The Critical Thinking Child Boot Camp for Kids I wanted to create an atmosphere where parents and children were companions in learning. We bring parents into the equation, providing the tools and resources necessary to make learning an everyday experience. This includes a Parent Mastermind Group and various online learning opportunities. We show children how to think critically about their world, and we help parents promote this way of thinking at home.
In doing this, we help ensure that young learners continue to practice their critical thinking skills no matter where they are. Easy-to-implement tools make it simple for parents to guide their child. As a result, the young learner is able to create a lifelong habit of approaching their world with curiosity and a joy of learning.
We also help students become comfortable with using technology as a learning tool. Through technology, we enhance the learning experience, rather than interrupting it. This allows students to continue learning even outside of the classroom. All of our learning tools are designed and developed by award-winning educators and local teaching artists, so you know your child is getting a great experience.
We are founded on fun
Because true critical thinking is rooted in inquiry and discovery, I aim to help young learners understand their world through play. The activities presented during test prep help students think about their world in a way that makes sense to them. We encourage children to have fun and to ask questions, stretching their creative muscles in the process.
This means incorporating a wide range of activities throughout sessions, including visual art, science, music, arithmetic, and even origami. Each of these activities is designed to help students understand abstract topics in a fun, accessible way.
We don’t teach to the test, we teach to the student
Many test prep organizations simply drill students on possible test topics. Not only is this approach ineffective and boring, it limits learning.
Instead of focusing mainly on memorization and worksheets, we focus on the thinking process itself. Our goal is to help nurture children’s natural curiosity, rather than frustrating them. With this in mind, we focus on activities that advance a child’s true and natural abilities.
As a result, students gain confidence in verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, reading, math reasoning, listening skills, and memory.They also learn which test prep strategies work best for them.
At The Critical Thinking Child, we instill a lifelong passion for learning
The Critical Thinking Child LLC has helped countless students successfully prepare for classical and gifted admissions tests. More importantly, we have shown students that learning is a process of discovery. We bring the joy back to learning and promote a lifelong love of curiosity.
We believe that by helping children think critically about the world, we are helping create adults who will be able to change it for the better. As a result, our students have greater problem-solving skills, verbal and non-verbal skills, and transferable skills across multiple subjects. Our parents feel confident in their child’s academic path, and our students are excited to participate in a fun learning environment.