Just like good eating habits, teaching your children a few mental techniques at an earlier age will provide them with ‘automatic’ essential skills toward competing in the fast-changing world of the future.

Automatic skills

‘Automatic’ skills are life-skills your child performs without even thinking about it. Things such as heading to the bathroom to brush her teeth as part of her nighttime routine or clearing his plate from the table after finishing a meal could be considered automatic.

Other automatic skills, such as food preferences or level of physical activity, can have drastic effects on a person’s ability to maintain a healthy adulthood. These skills are most easily learned in childhood when the brain is most receptive. Just like teaching your child to avoid sugary snacks in favor of more healthful options, you can teach your child how to develop sharper mental focus even when they are very small.

In an article recently published by Lifehack, Captain D provides five simple tips for his readers to improve their mental focus. It’s an interesting story, especially when he tells the part about bringing his ship up through the Mississippi River delta in too-shallow waters.

But before you run off to read it, here are a few of the tips he suggested that can easily be translated into quality time with your child.

Breathing technique

Get into a comfortable position in a room with your child and both of you just stay quiet and concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes. Depending on the age and attention level of your child, you may need to start off with just a minute or so, but work your way up to 5 minutes a day (a general rule of thumb is minutes to years old – a two-year-old should not be expected to do this for more than 2 minutes). Early sessions may start with a lot of giggling and fidgeting and that’s okay. Just bring the attention back to the idea that this is time to enjoy breathing for a minute and your child will eventually come to enjoy the exercise for what it is.

Fixed point technique

If your child just can’t focus on breathing, you can try the spot technique in which you have them concentrate on a spot on the wall for up to five minutes. To make this not feel like a punishment, it is important to do this together, present it as time to just enjoy being, and use a friendly spot for your child to focus on – a picture of their favorite animal, a silly face, etc. As your child gets used to the practice, have her pick out the spots you will focus on.

Attention Game

Play the attention game for a more active focus-building activity. Randomly ask your child how many things he can notice in a minute. Set the timer and have him start listing. Once the minute is up, set it again and start listing back to him all the things you noticed in that same minute. You can include a third family member to keep score if you want to add a bit of competition into the game. This one’s also a good distraction when standing in long grocery store lines and hanging out in waiting rooms.

Okay, now go read Captain D’s article for some more tips you might use yourself.

Automatic Focus for your child – the easy way