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 3: Infant Concentration

Hello and welcome to this Friday’s extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter.

CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I’ll post up one extract each Friday. At the end of each Friday post you’ll see a link to take you on to the next extract.

Attention skills: help your infant concentrate
Your newborn baby never plans. He reacts. He responds to loud noises with a startle reflex but relaxes when he hears your voice. By 3 months, he turns his head to the direction of the sounds he hears.

Soon, he watches your face closely as you talk. Make the most of this contact. Speak quietly to him and make happy faces. Watch him concentrate hard and copy your facial movements. When you poke out your tongue, he follows suit a few moments later.

His concentration is intense. This is natural. Everything is still new and he needs to understand it.

Sometimes you speak to him and he won’t look at you. He’s too busy watching a mobile, or the patterns of leaves against the sky, or he’s wiggling his toes. He may be aware of his own internal feelings. Maybe he’s getting hungry. He can only concentrate on one thing at a time.

Attention skills: baby’s short attention span
He can’t choose the subject of his concentration. It happens by chance. If a new toy catches his eye, he loses interest in what he is doing and puts all his attention on the new toy. If he bangs his hand, he forgets what he was looking at and cries, but you can distract him by giving him something new to see, hear, feel, smell or taste.

During his first year, his concentration span remains short and single-channel. He plays with one toy for a few moments, then moves on to something else. It helps him to have just one or two toys available at a time. Let him play with these until he loses interest, then put them away and give him something else. Avoid surrounding him with dozens of toys all at once. He finds it difficult to settle down with one toy if there are too many other things nearby.

Attention skills: baby activities: peep-bo
To play peer-bo, you hide your face from your baby, then pop your head out and say “peep-bo”. It’s a great attention builder. At the start of the game you make and hold eye contact with him. This captures his awareness and he watches you closely.

Then hide your face. This surprises him. It takes him aback. He sits for a second, puzzled. Maybe he feels a touch of anxiety. Then, you pop your head out again and give him a start. You smile; he laughs and has his reward for waiting.

He learns several lessons.

First, he learns that making eye contact with you is fun. Second, he finds that his bonus for waiting a moment is that you appear again. Third, he works out that your face might disappear but come back again: it hasn’t gone away forever.

That helps his intellectual development, as he learns that objects still exist, even when he can’t see them. As a bonus, he finds that you like laughing with him. This helps him feel secure and happy, providing the perfect environment for relaxed development.

Come back next week for the next extract to find out more about your child’s attention skills and discover more activities you can carry out yourself. CLICK HERE for the next extract.
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