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The Art of Concentration

Your guide to the ages and stages of development

Nearly a century ago, education pioneer Maria Montessori observed children in the slums of Italy absorbed in manipulating bread crumbs. She concluded that the drive to learn was so intrinsic?and so strong?that children would learn to focus on anything in order to fulfill their potential.

In our culture, kids are less likely to suffer from a lack of stimulation than from an overload of claims for their attention. The sheer variety of activities available to them require little sustained focus. Even when we limit television and surround our kids with educational materials, the very richness of their environment may make it more difficult for them to learn to concentrate.

But concentration is the cornerstone of learning. The preschool years are an ideal time to release your child's potential for concentration. Your child has moved beyond the busy toddler stage and is developmentally able to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time. The ability to concentrate will give your child a head start when she begins school. Here's what you can do to build your child's concentration muscles:

Observe your child.

Notice what activities she sticks with and give her lots of praise for completing a task.

Offer choices.

Your child is more likely to focus on an activity she prefers, so let her choose between building with blocks or coloring.

Model concentration.

When you work on a puzzle with your child or play a game together, exaggerate your own focus. Say things like, "I need to pay close attention to the shape of these pieces to make sure I get them in the right place."

Encourage repetition.

When your child is finished with a project, ask, "Would you like to do it again?" Learning involves a great deal of repetition, so help your child see "doing it again" as a good thing, not an indication that she's failed the first time.

Notice the details.

Draw your child's attention to the details of everyday activities. When you close a door, turn the door knob slowly, watching and listening for the latch go in. Then let your child do the same.

Create silence.

Sit very quietly with your child for a few minutes, then ask her to talk about any noises she heard (birds, trees blowing, cars). Show your child a pin, then ask her to close her eyes and listen for you to drop it.

Concentration is an invaluable element of learning. A child who can focus on a task will thrive in an academic environment.

? Barbara Curtis, former teacher, and mother of 12

A Shot in the Arm

If your child suffers from allergies, you may want to consider starting him on a series of allergy shots. The shots, which contain a purified form of the allergen that affects your child, are usually given over a five-year period with the dosage increasing gradually over the series. When administered by an experienced health care professional, the shots are safe for children as young as 4.

If you and your child's doctor decide to give allergy shots a try, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology suggests parents follow these guidelines:

Allergy shots should be administered only under the supervision of an allergist/immunologist.

If your child is sick or suffers from asthma or respiratory difficulties, hold off on any allergy shots until the doctor says it's safe.

Be sure to tell the person administering the shots of any medications your child is taking. This will help you avoid any adverse drug interactions.

?information from KidsHealth.org

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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