Why children should learn to concentrate

Children who learn how to concentrate at a young age may find they benefit academically as a result. This is the suggestion of new research appearing online in the Cell Press publication Current Biology, which showed the results could have implications for improving the school success of young people deemed at risk of poor outcomes.

Sam Wass of the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck, University of London - home to more than 19,000 students every year - said it is obvious the better a child is at focusing on one object, such as a book, the increased likelihood there will be that they will learn from the experience.

However, the new findings show attentional control abilities can be taught at an earlier age than thought previously.

The expert said: "Differences in attentional control abilities emerge early in development and that children with better attentional control subsequently learn better in academic settings."

Richard Keegan, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "The study found that training certain gazing/attentional behaviours in 11-month olds led to fairly immediate improvements in these tasks. 

"Given that other studies have suggested performance in these same tasks predicts subsequent academic performance, this constitutes a very interesting finding. 

"If it can subsequently be shown that such training produces lasting benefits to important cognitive skills in order to benefit academic performance, this would raise the possibility of a sort of 'brain training' for infants - although this might also raise a number of ethical and practical dilemmas. 

"For example, perhaps those parents who really wish to push their children towards academic success will be able to start a little earlier. More realistically, it may begin to inform the development of toys or games/activities that are both fun and potentially beneficial to the infant's development."