Supporting and Nurturing Concentration in Toddlers

Supporting and Nurturing Concentration in Toddlers

-Aishwarya Dwarakanath (Montessori guide and consultant)

Toddlers are developing their willpower to make decisions and choose activities that satisfy an inner need. Being able to make a choice and say ‘No’ is an important developmental milestone- but this is half the job done. Toddlers are slowly working on their ability to concentrate on the activities they choose over time. 2-year-olds can be seen flitting from one activity to the next, often moving around and unable to sit or stand for long. This is completely normal.

As they reach their third birthday, we can continue to guide them to work on an activity, repeat it and put it away. When we offer them a chance to repeat the activity consistently, the effects are seen within a few weeks or months! Here are some other pointers to keep in mind to nurture the child’s concentration.

  1. Encourage repetition: Repeating an activity again and again or saying the same words over and over by a toddler is a glimpse of the child’s inner teacher egging them on. To facilitate repetition, ensure that there is enough time for the child to do the activity without stopping them in between. Also, it is important to communicate the opportunity to repeat by asking them- “Would you like to do that one more time? You can work on this as many times as you like.”    
  2. Sit back and observe: When a child is doing something, not only are everyone’s eyes on them, but it is not uncommon to hear these phrases- “not like that! Try this! Keep that straight. Put that down. Turn and sit. Sit up. Look here. Wow! Very good! Good girl!” Instead, let us try to just observe and step in only when the child is going to harm themselves or is mis-using the materials before them. If something has to be told, wait patiently until they make eye-contact with you.
  3. Do not force or reward concentration: Children don’t expect rewards or punishments for doing their work, they experience inner joy. When we say- “Good Job”, we are taking away the self-awareness of the child, and instead we imply that they have achieved the standards that we have set. Dr. Montessori rightly said “No one acting from the outside can cause him to concentrate”
  4. Remove obstacles: Sometimes, the environment around the child can provide obstacles. A creaky door, a tiny hole in the carpet, a misshapen puzzle piece, a wiping cloth that doesn’t absorb can all cause your toddler to stop their flow of work, frown and look towards you for help! Try to change the environment to be supportive of their concentration and development.
  5. Love for language: All rules go flying out of the window when toddlers hear or see two people conversing with hands or signs. Their love and sensitivity to language makes them eager to listen, absorb and imitate. This is completely natural. One can often find toddlers gazing intently at conversing adults and then going back to what they were doing after a while. It is also extremely important for toddlers to have conversations with their caregivers before, during and after their work!
  6. Provide challenging activities: Observe your child’s fine motor (hand movements) skills during an activity. If something is too easy for them, they will display mastery and ease over the material. This will mean that we need to offer a challenge to them. A little bit of challenge goes a long way in holding their concentration. Experiment with existing activities and add a complication to the same. For example- from just mixing up ingredients, upgrade to scooping the right amount of quantities to go into the mix.
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