This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

Have you watched your toddler’s eyes when they see something that really interests them? They seem to twinkle with wonder and curiosity. These little people who often jump from toy to toy and activity to activity without notice can be fully captivated by certain things. For each child, it’s different, but for both of our kids something that we noticed them noticing often were birds. They would see a bird flying through the air when we were outside or hopping around in the grass looking for worms near our back porch and would immediately be transfixed and point to wherever the bird was.

My son seemed to be obsessed with the geese that frequently visit the park by our house. He would see them flying overheard or digging for food in the grass and immediately start yelling “geese, geese!” in an adorably high-pitched voice. His fascination lasted just past the age of two and didn’t seem to transfer to other types of birds. My daughter on the other hand loves all kinds of birds, including geese and loves when we point out birds for her to look at. Her fascination with birds even drove us to spend her second birthday at the Cascades Raptor Center (which I highly recommend by the way!) getting an up close look at lots of different birds. We even saw my son’s interest and attention for feathered creatures return as he was looking at the eagles, owls and falcons.

What this has helped me realize is that as we are thinking about preparing our children for heading off to school, one thing we often overlook are social and emotional skills, especially focus. But, being able to drown out chaos around you and focus on one specific thing is an essential part of going to school and of life in general. We need to be able to focus and follow simple instructions or directions in order to do lots of things successfully in the world. What can really help us teach our kids focus? Spending time observing them and finding out what interests and motivates them. What makes them curious? When they are curious about something, they want to find out more about that thing and often have a stronger desire to block out the noise around them and focus on what they are curious about. The more they practice focusing, the better they get at it, and the easier it will get as they get older to focus on other things…even on things they may not find as interesting.

So, make sure to observe and watch your children as they play and explore their surroundings. Pay attention to what grabs their interest and try to offer them more opportunities to focus on those things. You may end up learning something you didn’t know about your child and help them develop a lifelong passion.

This is fatherhood…