In Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky talks about 7 essential life skills that children need to develop in order to be successful in life. The first skill is focus and self-control. Focus and self-control are important because a child needs to have focus and self-control to achieve his goals in life. Without them, there is nothing to keep him from getting derailed by the many distractions in life. This is especially so in today’s era where there are so many things vying for our attention.
To help your children develop focus and self-control, there are many things you can do as part of your daily interaction with your children that will help them. One of the suggestions in Galinsky’s book that I really like is pretty much like the play plans in the Tools of the Mind program.
Beyond helping your child develop focus, the other reason why I like this suggestion is because it empowers our children. How often has your child said to you, “Mummy, I’m bored!” And if you don’t suggest something for your child to do or find something to keep them busy, they’ll start getting themselves into all sorts of trouble when they do things you really don’t have time to deal with right now.
Play plans are a great way to promote working memory. By asking your child to make a plan of the things he is going to do and then getting him to follow that plan, you are not only helping him to develop focus and self-control, but you are also helping him learn how to find ways to keep himself busy without relying on you to be “Entertainment Central”. So the next time he’s bored, instead of whining to you about it, he can actually be pro-active about it.
To help Gavin come up with a plan, I followed Galinsky’s example with her own son and wrote out a list of all the things that Gavin could do, for example, play with his trains, play Lego, work on his jigsaw puzzles, paint, play with his cooking toys, work on his activity books, and so on. Once we had a list, I asked Gavin to look at the list and choose a few things he would like to do. We then create a new list of the things he plans to do and then we make it happen. At the end of the day, we review his list and mark off all the things he managed to get done.
I plan to take this a step further. Gavin loves to read stories. Just like any child, what thrills him the most are stories about himself. Since I have so many digital photos of him collecting dust on my hard drive, I have been trying to create a digital scrapbook that he can look back on. It’s an activity that we work on together and he really enjoys it. All we do is take pictures that he likes from my photo archive, paste them into his scrapbook and add a one or two lines about what the photo is about. His scrapbook then becomes a story that he can read about himself.
Since we’re now working on play plans and reviewing the achievements from those play plans, I figured we could update his scrapbook with daily happenings in his life. As we review the activities that he has successfully completed from his play plan, I write a story about his day, complete with photos.
This is a terrific activity with other benefits:
- It’s project we can work on together.
- He gets new books that he can read.
- It helps him develop his working memory which is good for focus and self-control.
- We’ll have a collection of scrapbooks about his life that we can look back on when he’s older.