What is attention?
Attention is a cognitive process in which individuals selectively concentrate on one thing, while screening out or ignoring other things. Psychologists and neuroscientists have studied attention for well over a century. More recent findings have increasingly pointed to brain structures, functions, and processes in explaining attention. Through functional MRIs, neuroscientists can now examine enhanced firing of neurons during changes in focused attention. Further, through these techniques, it has been determined that paying attention requires maturation of numerous widely scattered brain areas—from the brain stem up to the prefrontal cortex. Neurotransmitters in the brain, primarily dopamine and norepinephrine, are thought to be involved in attentional functions.
Are there ways to increase attention skills?
Yes. Numerous studies have shown that learning to keep the brain quiet, as in deep relaxation, reflection, or absorption in self-directed play, has a positive effect on attention. Research also has suggested that adequate amount of sleep and nutrition play an important role in helping students focus attention and limit restlessness.
Here are some ways you can assist your child in developing attention skills:
- Spend time with your child. The quality of a child’s or adolescent’s relationship with adults may be the single most important contextual factor in the child’s development, behavior, and ability to attend and concentration
- Set aside daily electronics-free family time with your child. This means you should also put away your devises
- Insist on a regular bedtime. A routine of story time or talk time just before bed is suggested.
- Insist on a reasonable noise-level limit in the home. Curb or eliminate background TV noise.
- Establish firm limits and predictable routines
- Ensure that your child gets some physical exercise every day.
- Teach your child to plan using words that the child can later turn into internal self-talk. For example, when baking cookies together, you might say, “What should we do first?” “What should we do next?” “What ingredients will we need?” etc.