Intellectual development: Supporting the growth of Concentration and Attention Skills - DuPage Children's Museum

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Intellectual development: Supporting the growth of Concentration and Attention Skills

January 21, 2016

Intellectual development in children is a dynamic process that is influenced by, but not limited to, interactions with their environment, peers and significant adults in their lives. From the moment that they are born, infants are continually inspecting their surroundings, taking in all of that information, and trying to make sense of it.  Here at DCM, we strive to create exhibits, and an overall environment, that capitalizes on this natural sense of curiosity and desire to learn in order to stimulate and enhance children’s cognitive development.

Educational psychologist Kevin McGrew developed a research based theoretical model that describes 10 broad intellectual abilities. One of these abilities which I find particularly interesting is referred to as processing speed. Processing speed refers to the ability to automatically and fluently perform cognitive tasks (Lynch & Warner, 2013). For example, while visiting the Museum on a Wednesday morning, I observed four-year-old twins are enjoying story hour in the Family Room. Mom asks, “Can you jump up and down three times, just like the mouse in the story?” Both children hop and count as the reader turns the page to continue the story.

It might be surprising to know that asking children to imitate simple actions or playing a game like I Spy,  which involves pointing and identifying items around the room, can have an impact on developing concentration and attention skills. Educational and child development professionals refer to a term known as processing speed when attention and focused concentration are a required part of a task.

The growth of processing skills can have a profound effect on parenting and can have benefits in preschool and beyond. When a child is able to complete a task automatically, it allows for attendance to and concentration on learning new skills—building a foundation for future learning adventure!

Here are some whys that you can support the development of processing speed at home:
– Count and sort toys as they are put away. For example with Legos you might ask, “Can you count all of the green ones as you put them into the box?”

-Point to and identify objects in the environment no matter where you are. Ask, “How many circles do you see?”

-Play Simon Says. As imitation skills become automatic, move faster as you switch positions during the game.

Reference: Lynch, Sharon A. and Warner, L. 2013. “How Adults Foster Young Children’s Intellectual Development.” In Young Children, Vol. 68, No. 2, 86-91. Washington, DC: NAEYC.