The first essential for the child's development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behaviour.
The child whose attention has once been held by a chosen object, while he concentrates his whole self on the repetition of the exercise, is a delivered soul in the sense of spiritual safety of which we speak. From this moment there is no need to worry about him - except to prepare an environment which satisfies his needs, and to remove obstacles which may bar his way to perfection. - Maria Montessori. The Absorbent Mind.
As with many children Otis often moves quickly from one activity to the next. I remind myself while he is working, if only for five minutes, I can see him in deep concentration. His repetition is testament to his engagement. I also remind myself it is my responsibility to provide an environment that not only supports but promotes his work and his concentration.
Maria Montessori writes that the essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest in that it engages the child's whole personality... We must provide "motives for activity" so well adapted to the child's interests that they provoke his deep attention. For me this means engagement. Providing an environment that engages the child on a deep and personal level. For young children like Otis I think it's important to note that concentration is not always about sitting still and working. There are many gross motor activities that are engaging to a child of this age. Also that the work must be purposeful and real.
Polk Lillard and Lillard Jessen in Montessori from the Start state the parents' challenge is to establish a home environment that encourages the development of concentration from the child's infancy. I appreciate that they call it a challenge.
What am I focusing on right now?
- Observing Otis. What holds his attention? What is his focus?
- Ensuring the materials that he uses the most are well maintained, accessible and organised.
- Ensuring his creative endeavours are provided for.
- Keeping myself in check! Hands off, while ensuring Otis is supervised and has adequate space and time.
- Being a good role model. Ensuring Otis can observe me working, reading, concentrating with interest and focus.
- Ensuring Otis has opportunity for outside and gross motor activities throughout the day and evening, that he has the opportunity to work with whole of body movements.
- Ensuring Otis has quiet and calm one on one time with me each day.
- Working with Otis on relaxation and meditation at the end of the day.
There is a great article on Montessori and concentration here.