Two-year-old Samuel Weinstein loves to play on his swing set—for about 60 seconds, that is. "The next minute, he'll ask me if he can help feed the dog. Shortly after that, he'll want to play with a soccer ball, then it's back to the swing set once again," says his mom, Nicole, of Ballston Spa, New York. "It's incredibly exhausting."
Preschoolers are famous for jumping from one activity to the next. As frustrating as this can be for their parents, it's actually a normal part of their learning process, as well as a reflection of their healthy excitement about the world. Kids this age want to do anything and everything at once, but with your help, they can focus. Here's how.
Think about the last time you were confronted with a lavish buffet. You wanted all the delicious food—the luscious lobster, the big chunks of cheese, the shiny cinnamon rolls—didn't you? But hopefully, you tried to pick and choose. A child doesn't have that kind of self-restraint. He sees a tricycle, blocks, and crayons, and feels torn. In fact, preschoolers are specifically wired not to be selective, says Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of The Secret Language of Children. They learn best from interacting with their environment. "A variety of experiences help form neural connections in the brain, and young children constantly seek out new information," says Janette Benson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver. It's also why the initial thrill of an activity can quickly wear off. Don't expect your child to be fascinated by anything for more than ten or 15 minutes.
While it's easy to sympathize with your child's enthusiasm for everything, it's also okay to help her start slowing down a bit. It will give you a much-needed break, and in the long run, the ability to concentrate will help her in school. So when her attention wanders:
Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the November 2004 issue of Parents magazine.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.