How to Minimize Distractions in the Digital Age
Learning will never stay stagnant. Concepts, curriculums, teaching methods, and classroom layouts are always evolving to keep up with the way our society has transformed in this digital era. A foundational aspect of learning and experiencing childhood relies on catering to the child’s attention span. If children in daycare aren’t engaged, their active minds aren’t being stimulated to their full potential. It has become even more important for daycare staff and teachers to understand the impact that technology has had on children, even at daycare age, to ensure that under the influence of so many distractions, their attention spans are being positively fuelled to grow.
Understand the Average Preschooler’s Attention Span
Aside from free play and art time, activities should not be stretched more than ten minutes, as a preschooler’s attention span is just that short. As with any other skill, improving our attention spans as children take practice and consistent effort. In our NE Calgary daycare, Little Stars provides closed off style classrooms where children can train themselves to focus on tasks for what their attention spans require.
With all of the options available in movies, t.v. shows, tablets, music, phones, computers, social media, the internet and DVRs, children are exposed to much more stimulation daily. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation discovered students from ages 8 to 18 watch t.v., explore the internet or scroll through any other form of media while doing their homework. Attention spans like these are developed since the age of preschool when a child’s brain becomes accustomed to high degrees of multitasking to account for the stimulation they desire. Little Stars daycare aspires to influence real-life learning and readiness in a digital age, focused on minimizing technological distractions in daycare for information and technology basics to be used and appreciated in kindergarten.
Minimizing distractions today is not as simple as removing technology from the room. Tasks must be practiced from a young age to teach children that gratification comes from long term goals such as that of reading. When a love for reading is instilled in children, the distractions of technology can be overlooked for a novel. When we read, all of our attention is focused on the task at hand as we patiently fall into the world the author describes. As children grow up receiving excitement from all forms of technology and media, they lose the opportunity to discover the excitement of reading.
Whether it be at home or in daycare, it is not just how children are read to, but what they read. When a child is captivated by storytelling, it becomes a pillar of their identity. Ensure your child includes reading within their day for fifteen minutes. Habits like these become a way of life. Give your child stories to read and read them stories that are so captivating they pick up another book from the pile for you to read. Search for this quality in daycares, as the best ones are rooting for your child’s interests.
Normalize Short T.V. Time
Psychologists at Iowa State University conducted a study to find that kids exceeding the recommended two hours per day of screen time were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to have attention problems in the classroom. In the modern age, we are never going to escape the distractions of technology. When a child practices having a limit to free time on technology, their mental strength grows to the point that they are not compelled by the hyper-stimulation that TV and games offer. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend children have limited screen time of one to two hours daily. Make it a norm for children to receive screen time once homework, reading, and chores have been completed. This way, children learn that screen time is not their priority. Daycares committed to truly developing the cognitive abilities of children emphasize their use of screen time, paying special attention to when it occurs according to the child’s routine.
Prioritize Physical Activity
Digital distractions only take root in a child when they believe they cannot be stimulated in any other way. Reading exercises the mind, yet physical activity allows children to fully express themselves through movement. Physical activity makes your brain work better, no matter what your age is. For children, the brain is like a muscle – when it is exercised, it works better at improving information retention. As with reading and normalizing short TV time, physical activity becomes a habit that children learn to look for to release energy.
It is imperative that daycare programs allow recess and playtime, and that these activities are outdoors whenever weather allows it. Little Stars NE daycare promotes learning through play-based activity, with indoor play, a preschool studio and daily outdoor play in one of the largest daycare playgrounds in Calgary. A study was conducted in Dutch primary schoolchildren to examine the effects of one to two rounds of moderate-intensity physical activity on children’s selective attention. Thirty boys and twenty-six girls, aged 10-13 years, had randomly been assigned to three conditions:
- To sit all morning and work on completing stimulating school tasks.
- To participate in one 20 minute piece of physical activity after 90 minutes of completing school tasks.
- To exercise for 20 minutes before the start of any school work, and complete another 20 minutes after 90 minutes of school work.
This study found that the children who completed the two rounds of 20 minutes of exercise had performed significantly better when tested on selective attention.
Maintain a Schedule
Adults live their day-to-day working off of a schedule. It gives us a structure and guides us as to what we should be focusing our attention on and when. The same can be said for a child. Daycares should work around a routine. Having a schedule posted around easy to see places in the daycare and even on the fridge at home can give children direction as to what they should spend their attention on rather than wander towards the distractions of technology.
With the above tips, parents, child care providers and teachers will be able to guide children away from digital distractions towards more productive endeavours. This should not mean banish screentime, as the internet is the most valuable educational and information disseminating tool ever invented. But parents and teachers must balance digital time within the analog environment to nurture children who will become productive, capable and responsible adults.