Kids Aren’t Very Good Multi-Taskers

As adults, we can talk on the phone, put dishes away, stir the dinner on the stove, and make sure our kids are safe and happy all at the same time.  Children do not have this ability- in their daily activities or in their development.  Children, especially younger ones, place all of their focus on one thing and get it figured out before they can move on and focus on something else.  That level of focus is easy to see in their everyday activities- just watch your child as he tries to build a block tower.  He is focused only on that task until he gets it the way he wants it. It’s harder to see this inability in their development.  If a child has learned how to walk and is feeling fairly confident in that skill, he may try to start learning or improving upon a new skill- such as talking.  Because children can’t multi-task and they place so much focus on new skills, the old skills may stop developing or may even regress a bit.  There is no need to worry about this, it happens to almost every child at some point in their development.  If you are concerned, it is important to discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher or pediatrician.

However, even though it’s perfectly normal for development to stop or go backwards, we can still support them in their new skill with the knowledge that the “old” skill will come back once the new skill is mastered.  In keeping with the previous example, if your child no longer wants to walk (because she’s focused on talking, remember), encourage her anyway.  Give her choices.  In this example, you could say, “Do you want to walk inside or outside?”  Then, strongly encourage (but don’t force) her to walk where she has chosen.  Make sure you carry her in the opposite place- she wants to walk outside, make sure she can trust you by carrying her inside.

A caring and trusting relationship with adults is the most important thing in a child’s development!  Do all you can to build that trust so your child feels your love and can focus on the next skill to be mastered.

Rebecca Wilson, MS, is mother to Emogene (IC7) and is an enthusiast for all things related to young children.  She earned her Bachelors Degree in Child Development and her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  She has worked with children of all ages from birth through 3rd grade in different positions from teaching to administration to consulting.  Currently, she is a grant manager for the early childhood council in Adams County.