Magazine article Working Mother

Out of Focus

Magazine article Working Mother

Out of Focus

Article excerpt

One minute your 3-year-old is revving his fire truck, the next he's balancing a block tower, then he's splashing straight down a Slip 'n Slide. He can do so much. What he can't seem to do, though, is focus on one thing for more than a nanosecond. Should you try harder to teach him self-control? Probably not, according to new research.

The part of the brain that filters extraneous information and allows us to focus- the prefrontal cortex- isn't fully developed until around age 4. So not only is your child's behavior normal, young children actually learn better by nor filtering and focusing, explains Sharon Thompson-Schill, PhD, a professor of psychology and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. "When you learn in a broad, distractible way, you're able to come across things you otherwise might not notice."

For example, young children can discover new ways of using objects (a paper towel roll as a baseball bat) better than adults, who have functional fixedness. "Lack of focus allows kids to process things in an unconventional way," notes Dr. Thompson-Schill. And this free thinking gives way to creativity. So no need to worry when your kid's mind and body wander from one thing to the next; it's just his creative juices flowing. There'll be time enough for him to learn to focus- grade school is right around the corner. -Irene Kwon

LEARNING LESSONS

To help your child grow creatively, says Dr. Sharon Thompson-Schill:

* Relax the rules. Young kids learn through unstructured experiences. So offer raw materials (paper and crayons, LEGOs and blocks) and then let him do his own thing. …

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