Since young children need to attend to so many things for physical, cognitive and emotional development, they need to practice watching and listening. And since we know that all children have their own learning styles and needs, it is important for you to observe and understand your child’s specific style. Doing so will not only help you to understand your child better, but it will also help you to provide the right environments for his learning. Just as you focus better in certain situations, so does your child.
You can begin to observe how your child attends to sounds and activities very early in infancy. Since babies are generally most attentive to people’s faces, be sure to use lots of facial expressions along with vocal intonation to elicit attention from your infant. Then watch his face light up and smile. At 3 to 6 months watch her turn her head toward sounds and look closely at toys, and by 1 year notice her eyes looking toward objects you point to and talk about. Watch your baby closely during these stages. What does she attend to most? Does he focus better in quiet environments, or can he also focus on specific sounds with background noise? Does she watch and listen better when she is interacting with only one other person? Does he experiment more in physical activities when he is with other children? Is she happier when she is imitating the speech or actions of one adult? Does he seem fidgety or anxious with a lot of physical action going on around him? By 2 years does she play with her favorite toy for longer periods of time? What does he find interesting? What objects does she love looking at and examining? By 4 years of age what is he exploring in his environment? Is he playing by himself, playing with others, and listening to directions – all at once? By this time he should have good control over his own focus and attention, even in a somewhat noisy and busy environment.
The ability to sustain attention is not only an important developmental skill for learning;
it is necessary for what we call “working memory,” the ability to remember a lot of information
at once in order to perform a task.
For instance, when learning to spell his name, a child will need to remember what each letter
looks like, the sequence of the letters, and how to form the letters with the muscles of the
fingers. When learning to read, she has to remember what words look like so she doesn’t have
to sound out every word from the beginning. She also has to remember the content of what
she has just read in order to understand the rest of the sentences. Just think of how much
attention to task this requires.
So you can see the importance of providing the right environment for your child to pay attention to sights and sounds. Every place and every time is a new adventure in which your child is learning about his world. Every place and every time is building the foundation. Know what helps him to pay attention, and provide him with plenty of it. It’s a very important way for you to know and to offer the best for this incredible little individual.