Respecting Attention Span

Respecting Attention Span

Does it seem to you that activities at Romp n’ Roll can get a little chaotic at times? What’s with all the free choice and independent play? Why aren’t the children being required to sit still and pay attention to the adults? After all, that is what is happening at a lot of other early education programs. And isn’t that what will prepare them for success in school later on?

Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. An effective educational program is one that respects the fundamental realities of development. And the fact is that infants, toddlers, and even preschoolers simply are not built to sit still and pay attention for prolonged periods of time. While there is steady improvement in attention span during the early years, it is still a long way from where it is going to be when they are six, seven, or eight years old and beyond.

Consequently, when young children are required to sit still and pay attention for prolonged periods, two things tend to happen. First, their motivation to learn is obliterated as education becomes a dreadful chore rather than an enjoyable endeavor. Second, when they can’t comply, they are instilled with the idea that there is something wrong with them when in reality the problem is the totally unfair, unrealistic, and inappropriate expectations being placed on them.

As any grade school teacher will tell you, the best predictors of a child’s academic success are his self-confidence and his eagerness to learn. And by respecting the steadily progressing but still limited attention span of young children, Romp n’ Roll ensures that the children maintain positive attitudes about themselves and about education – attitudes that will serve them very well as elementary school students in the future.

Dr. Mike

Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at