Ready for Kindergarten Day 11: Focused Attention
Welcome back to our Ready for Kindergarten series! I’ve been having a busy summer with my family – enjoying time outdoors, reading lots of books, and going on fun outings and day trips. With all of the activity that goes on in a child’s life, today’s skill can be tough to master.
I will admit that this is something I don’t love about the public school system. I feel like asking a five year old to learn this skill flies in the face of their natural development. Kids will be kids, and kids like to MOVE. While some schools and teachers will require more from your child, today I am recommending what I feel is developmentally appropriate for five year olds.
When I was in the classroom, I tried to be very understanding of my students’ needs to wiggle, chat, and move their bodies. We made transitions frequently, did lots of learning with movement, and did my best to tolerate noise. However, in 99% of public and private schools, your kindergartner will need to be able to sit still and control their impulses. Most teachers are understanding of the way a 5 year old operates, and will switch activities every 15 minutes or so. Towards that end, your child should be able to sit still and quietly focus for 15 minutes without being a distraction to others.
Today I wanted to give you a few ideas to help your child practice this skill.
– Have your child sit and do something that requires focused attention like:
a board game
make a domino train
put together a more complex Lego figure
a word search, maze, workbook, etc.
(NOT a screen activity!)
Encourage your child to sit and do a quiet activity for 15 minutes. During this time, limit talking and/or require them to raise their hand if they have something to say or need to ask a question.
Another great idea is to have your child read quietly for 15-20 minutes a day. If they are unable to read, have them sit quietly and enjoy the pictures or “read” the story to themselves using the pictures as cues.
Most kindergarten classrooms will include a “writing” time. I encourage you to have your child “write” in a spiral notebook for 5-10 minutes per day to begin with, and then begin to build up their stamina.
Visit a library story-time
Read a story aloud to your child the way a teacher would. Sit in a chair and hold the book outwards while they sit on the floor and listen. (They’ll probably enjoy the novelty of this!)
Visit the theater, a local puppet show, or other community event where being seated and quiet is a social expectation.
If your child has a lot of difficulty with impulse control (ie- makes a lot of silly noises, likes to poke or touch others, etc.) keep providing lots of reminders and prep them about the expectations their teacher will have for them at school. If you are in a social situation where they do a great job, give LOTS of positive affirmation (I find it works far better than negative affirmation!) Say things like, “I love the way you sat quietly during story-time.” or, “Thank you so much for keeping your hands to yourself during church today.” Praise and affirmation coupled with gentle reminders are great first steps. If your child is really having difficulties, remember that the school will be a resource for you, and your child’s teacher may have additional ideas and strategies for your child’s individual needs.
And like I said at the beginning of the post, remember that five year olds are made to MOVE! Sitting still is against their nature. Their little bodies are just itching to wiggle – and this can intensify if they are a kinesthetic learner! If they’re wiggly and chatty – don’t sweat it too much. Even my most easily distracted little guys figured it all out within a few months. Kids are amazing and incredibly adaptable. They’ll get it!
In case you missed it: