Baby Attention and Concentration: How to Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter Part Four

Hello and welcome to this week’s fourth extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter. Every week, I’m posting up some paragraphs from my new book for you to read.  This will help you find the information you need on your child’s language development during the first few years of his life. It’s your chance to find out more about the way your child is learning to talk.

You need to help your child, because it’s the first three years that matter most. 

If you’re a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week’s post you’ll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Before this week’s extract, here are just a few words about an important development in England.

By the way
You may have heard that a review of the Early Learning Foundation Stage (EYFS) was published recently. The EYFS describes all the things that childcare professionals must think about. Dame Claire Tickell, the report’s author, spent many months looking at evidence about young children, and listening to the things parents and professionals had to say.

She says communication and language development really matter during the first three years of your child’s life.

She advises early years professionals to concentrate their efforts on communication, along with helping social and emotional development and checking on physical development.

Learning to read, write and do maths can wait. Now’s the time to lay the foundations for your child’s future success.

Here are a few scary statistics:

  • 50% of children start school in England, unable to understand properly: how will they learn in the classroom? 
  • 70% of young offenders have speech and/or language problems: what does that tell us about the importance of language in our children’s lives? 
  • 20% of people think they don’t need to talk to their baby until he’s three months old: aren’t they missing out on some wonderful experiences, and failing to introduce their baby to the possibilities of communication?

The good news is that it’s really easy to help your child talk. You just need to pay attention to the Five Keys:

  • attention,
  • listening,
  • understanding,
  • play, and
  • speech.

In previous extracts from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter, I’ve talked about the way your baby’s attention is caught by things he sees, hears, tastes, smells and touches, how he concentrates on one thing at a time and how you can use simple games to increase his attention and concentration. 

Now read this week’s post to find out even more about your baby’s attention skills: the first of those Five Keys your child needs to open his treasure chest of language.   

Attention skills: over-stimulation
While your baby is tiny, too many new sights, sounds and people can over-stimulate him. Be prepared to take him to a quiet place and soothe him if he becomes fractious. Everything is new to a baby, and he needs plenty of peaceful sleep. In fact, during his first 2 months he’s likely to sleep for about 20 hours a day. While he sleeps, his brain busily builds connections and helps him to make sense of the world. 

As he grows, he spends longer periods awake and alert. Make sure your voice is the one he hears most. Dr William Sears pioneered the concept of attachment between you and your baby. A close relationship with your baby, including time spent feeding him, holding him and responding to his cries, helps him learn best from you, because you can adjust your voice and your words to his needs. 

As you talk to him, watch him and make eye contact, you learn to read his expressions. Notice when he concentrates on you, and when something distracts his attention. 

Spend time with him and let the housework wait. 

Attention skills: baby activities: vision
Even during his first 3 months, he learns to follow an object with his eyes. Move one toy at a time from side to side. Use a rattle to help him concentrate a little longer, as his hearing and vision focus together. Show him pictures of faces and watch him look hard at them for a few seconds. Even tiny babies prefer pictures of faces to other visual stimulation. 
 
Attention skills: baby activities: five senses
Remember he has five senses, so appeal to all of them: smell, touch and taste as well as vision and hearing. Early in his first year, he starts to pass objects from one hand to the other. Let him have soft balls or crinkly paper, so encourage him to feel and hear the difference.

As he begins to eat solid food, his delicate senses of smell and taste mean he shows real enjoyment of some foods as well as distaste for others. Let him try a variety of foods, helping him notice and focus on the new sensations.

Offer him plenty of opportunities to use each of his senses, both separately and together. Draw his attention to what he can feel or see, taste or touch or hear. Avoid overloading him with too much sensory stimulation, as this will overwhelm him, and give him plenty of time to explore the world for himself.

Come back next week for the next extract to find out more about your child’s attention skills as he becomes a toddler. A link will appear HERE.

Can’t Wait? BUY NOW to download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter in seconds for only £3.53.

Help Your Child Talk Part 2: Attention Skills

 Attention Skills.
The more help your child gets from you, the better his language skills will be. You’ll have a real treat, seeing how well he progresses, and knowing you’re giving him the best start possible.


Nevertheless, some children have problems learning language. Sometimes a child takes longer to reach language goals, or he becomes stuck at one stage and can’t seem to move on. Read the Monitoring section towards the end of the book, to check on the language goals you can expect your child to reach at different times during his early life.


If you think his progress in reaching these stages is slow, then get help straight away from your healthcare provider. Don’t delay.


Don’t “wait and see.” Early intervention is incredibly important, as it lets you, and the right professionals, help your child while his brain is at its most receptive. The first 3 years of your child’s life are precious.


If you have to wait for an appointment to assess your child, make sure you use the time to keep working on the five keys to your child’s success, by playing language games.


Just be sure that you carry out activities that he can manage and enjoy. Don’t rush, or try to push him on faster than he can go. Let him progress at a pace that feels comfortable for him. That way, you’ll go on giving him the best opportunities you can, even before professional help kicks in.


First Key: Attention Skills
Attention skills: infants
Your baby has all his five senses in place at birth. He can already see, hear, touch, smell and taste. He spends three busy years, growing and developing at an amazing rate. He uses his senses to take in the world around him, becoming familiar with this new place.


From the moment he enters the world, he has access to vast amounts of information. He can easily be overwhelmed. He needs to sort out all the new stimulation around him, and learn to attend to one thing at a time.


Later on, he learns how to shift his attention deliberately from one single thing that captured his interest, to something else, so he can listen and learn. Children who fail to control their own attention find it difficult to learn when they arrive in school. Nursery, preschool, kindergarten and infant schools surround a child with a busier, noisier environment. Help your child learn to attend to one task at a time to make it easier for him to cope at school.


Attention skills: the infant brain
Your baby has a billion brain cells at birth. These are just about all he needs for the rest of his life. However, he needs to connect the cells to each other, linking each neuron to a number of others. Links establish themselves as he finds out about new things and develops new skills, and myelin sheaths grow over the connections, stabilising and protecting them permanently.


Once the sheaths are in place, the rate of growth slows. As a result, your child has “critical periods” of development, when different aspects of his growth and learning increase most rapidly.


Scientists agree that your child’s first three years are the most critical for language learning, although he continues to develop his language skills rapidly until he reaches 10 years of age. Make the most of the vital first three years by understanding how best to help him make the brain connections that lead to the best possible language abilities.


Start as soon as he’s born. Use his five senses to build his language, beginning with the simple task of looking at your face.


Attention skills: baby activities: singing
Your newborn baby hears and enjoys music. He turns to gentle sounds, and moves his body. Use this sense of hearing and his natural instinct for rhythm and tune to help him develop his ability to concentrate.


Rock him or bounce him gently on your knee as you sing to him. No matter how croaky your voice may be, sing nursery rhymes or pop songs; whatever you enjoy most. Your baby doesn’t mind what you sing, but he loves to hear your voice and listening to you will help him focus his attention on sound. Much of his experience in the early months is visual or through his senses of touch, taste and smell. Singing helps him concentrate on his hearing.







Help Your Child Talk: Best Toys for Baby Language Learning

Babies enjoy their interaction with you far more than the most expensive toys. Your face, voice, security and care matter to your child. As she grows, select the right toys to save money while you help her develop language skills.

Soft rattles: in her first year, she loves toys that encourage her to notice sights and sounds, smells and tastes and the way things feel. She learns to spend a few seconds following a moving toy, or turning to the sound of a rattle or a soft, squeaky toy. She builds brain pathways, learning rapidly about her new world as she repeats the same actions often.

Rolling balls: as she starts to move, crawling or shuffling across the floor, her universe opens up. A soft ball with a bell inside encourages her to follow as it rolls away, and she keeps listening as she searches, using her ears to find where it went. Good listening skills lead to easier language development.

Plastic cutlery: safe spoons, plates and cups make good plaything as she starts to eat solid food, sitting in her high chair, dropping them on the floor and looking around to find them. She learns that objects still exist, even when they drop out of sight. This lays foundations for understanding symbols, and helps her prepare to recognise pictures and words.

Teddy: dolls, teddies and soft toys with faces and bodies help her play out pretend sequences. Beginning by carrying teddy around with her, she learns to pretend clean his teeth or wash his feet. She builds up whole scenes, treating teddy as a real person and hearing you say the words for his body parts.

Dolls house: a robust dolls house is a wonderful investment that will last your child for years. If funds won’t allow a commercial house, why not get creative with a cardboard box? Playing with miniature toys takes her symbolic understanding further. She’s a long way from reading, but these games are the early steps in learning.

Musical instruments: rhythm, listening to different sounds and making music herself introduce her to the rhythms of speech and sharpen those listening skills. She needs to hear the difference between a range of speech sounds as she begins to recognise words, and tuning her ears with music helps. She doesn’t need a violin: a saucepan and wooden spoon will do.

Books: tiny babies love books with faces and mirrors. As she grows, she loves books with flaps she can pull up. She likes the repetition of a bedtime story or nursery rhymes, familiarising herself with the words and speech rhythms as you repeat them a hundred times.

Avoid: too many noisy toys that ‘talk’ or ‘sing’. Your child has her own imagination. Let her use it. Sing and talk with her yourself. She likes you better than any plastic toy.