Our brains are limited to the amount of information we can process at a single time. Therefore, it is imperative that children learn to concentrate as it is vital for the memory and for reading comprehension. I say learn to concentrate as I believe concentration can be a learned skill.
Why is it that when I started teaching 49 years ago children listened? I wonder, could they have learned the skill of concentration as they played? Children today want to be entertained – they need something or someone to entertain them. A child left to entertain himself from a young age will learn to focus and concentrate more than if he were to be constantly entertained. I recall explaining this to my daughter who constantly entertained her eldest child, to no avail. However, as he grew older she understood what I was trying to get across to her as he could not be left for a moment to entertain himself. Consequently, when the second child came along she decided to ‘try’ my theory and, guess what? Today this child can entertain himself for hours and has a better concentration span than his older brother, who incidentally, is an extremely bright child.
I have heard parents lauding television or videos for their ability to aid in the development of their child’s concentration span. However, television and videos do not accomplish what is necessary for this development. The authors of Teaching Your Child Concentration (Hausner and Schlosberg, 1998, 12) are of the opinion that, “Because it jumps from image to image, television (and videos) neither encourages nor allows time for the viewing child to stop and think about the ideas presented, or to inspire him to imagine or figure out the consequences of certain actions for himself. Before your child has time to activate his own thinking and focusing processes, there’s another image on the screen, and then another”.
(Excerpt from my book, Lanterns and Lunch Tins, p.17)