Several months ago, I posted about the Theory of Concentrated Attention. Today, I witnessed this wonder first-hand yet again. My 17 1/2 month old niece is a busy girl. She is constantly here and there, and never rests. Today I gave her two tools – a saucepan and a wooden spoon. Kiddo, my six year old, added a few more elements: two ping pong balls another saucepan, and a couple of bowls. With all of these tools, I witnessed my niece quietly and intently play for a solid 45 minutes before she began to lose interest in the activity.
One note about the amazing nature of her play is her attachment to her grandmother. She adores grandma and becomes distraught whenever grandma leaves the room. While she was playing with the saucepans, spoons, balls, and bowls, grandma left the room several times and she didn’t even notice. She was so intent on her activity that I’m not even sure that she would have noticed if a train had come through the room.
I was completely amazed by her activity and intentness, and it set me to thinking about my own classroom and the process by which I choose the toys that are made available to the children. I have always had a standard by which I have gauged the toys, but I have never really been able to articulate what that standard is. After thinking about it, I have figured it out. I only choose toys that the children have to act upon in order to achieve a desired end of their own making. Toys that have buttons and play music require the children to act upon them, but the end result is not the child’s desired end, but the toy manufacturer’s. I don’t have a single toy in my classroom that has any features like that. There were some in the room when I took the classroom, but I was very quick to pass them on to other classes. I work hard to provide a selection of toys that require active thought processes of children, as well as their physical and mental participation in achieving an end result. By selecting these kinds of toys and activities, I see the Theory of Concentrated Attention come to life several times a day, and each time I see it, it amazes me. I have many, many pictures of children in my classroom participating in engaging activities that they have chosen, some of which I hadn’t even dreamed of, but which their minds have conceived and in which they are actively using their imaginations to achieve a desired result of their own making.
The process of learning is a wonderful thing.