Building attention and task persistence through play

Attention and task persistence are very important skills for human beings. They allow us to focus our mind on the internal and external information that matters in any particular moment, in spite of obstacles or frustrations. Without attention and task persistence, we would not succeed at complex tasks, such as cooking, dressing ourselves, or having a conversation. Research has shown the impact of these skills is far-reaching in both academic performance and coping with life in general.

This ability to focus and persist is naturally easier for some children. However, like all cognitive skills, it can definitely be improved through practice. As parents and teachers, we can offer the right kind of toys and activities to help build these fundamental skills.

Physical activities like cycling, scooting, swinging and trampolining are all fun and engaging ways to build attention. Including fit balls and hoppers into everyday play and movement experiences or as part of an obstacle course is an excellent strategy.

Two other types of activities that can help build attention and task persistence are divided into two categories: closed-ended activities and narrow-focused tasks.

Closed-ended play activities are those that have a defined start and end point. Examples of closed-ended activities include: arts and crafts, puzzles, many board games, shape-sorters, mazes, cooking, stringing beads, dot-to-dots, construction tasks and visual thinking games. Memory and Bumble Bee (a.k.a. I Spy) are two examples.

Narrow-focused tasks include sorting, organising and categorising games or activities. Examples of narrow-focused games are Uno, Snap and Blink.

If you’d like to try out some games and activities to help your child build his or her attentional skills, it’s always a good idea to start with what they can easily do and build on them so they can experience early success This will motivate them to try more challenging tasks. Both adults and children will be amazed at the progress they make!

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