How Kids Learn Focus

Here’s quick look at how kids learn to focus and a surprising  insight into concentration provided, unwittingly, by a little boy. 

 We stumbled upon 6-year-old Miles playing chess in Washington Square Park.  At first, we thought he was adorable and stopped to look. Then we realized there was something more going on. This child was engaged by the game and used the kind of single-minded focus that’s really important in every thing that we do.  It really got us thinking.

We watched Miles play a game of speed chess with Omar, one of the park regulars. The boy kept his eye on the chess pieces and the moves Omar made. We looked around for Miles’ father and found him watching someone else play.  When I asked about Mile’s game the dad said, “He’s got chops but he’s still learning.”

What you see is what really happened. Miles paid no attention to the people walking by or  those stopping to talk and people like me taking photos and shooting video.

We were impressed because Miles kept his eye on the chess pieces and didn’t look or dart around. He zeroed in on the board  and the moves he might make instead of letting his thoughts wander.  He paid attention when Omar encouraged him to move and asked him commit to an  even deeper focus “Come-on Miles, ” he urged. And the kid responded by taking Omar’s king.  It doesn’t matter whether Miles won or lost. What counts is that at six  he understands how to concentrate on one thing at a time.

I don’t want to sound cranky, but distractions threaten every thing we do and the myth of  multi-tasking really messed a lot of people up.  We all have to focus to do something well.  Life really is a one thing at a time proposition and requires putting one  foot in front of the other to move forward.  And this little chess player is a great example. Miles was right there with the game, and that’s the kind of focus we all  need for everything  that we do. 

I’m looking for more examples of the ability to zero in on one thing at  at time. Recommendations anyone?

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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.