Morning Nugget – Focusing Your Attention, Part 4

The brain is purpose driven. We may look at the ocean and be inspired to take a class in marine biology or write a story on pirates at sea!
The brain is purpose driven. We may look at the ocean and be inspired to take a class in marine biology or write a story on pirates at sea!


In the last post, we took a look at negative results of not paying attention, or our attentional blindness. Today, things are looking up! We’re going to begin looking at the positive benefits of leaning to focus our attention like a laser.

If you haven’t read any of the previous ‘Morning Nugget’ posts, my goal is to share little nuggets of insight and knowledge about the topic of child development as I read and learn from the experts. We initially began with a series on Mister Rogers, and we are now making our way through how the brain works based on my notes from Optimizing Brain Fitness by The Great Courses. (On a side note, I have enjoyed partnering with my 9-year-old son who is providing the sketches for all the posts on the brain. He loves to draw and enjoys seeing his sketches being put to use!)

Back to the brain…

Let’s get technical-

There are 3 attentional control systems in the brain:

  1. Alerting System – located in the frontal lobe and parietal areas, and uses the neurotransmitter (big word for messenger) dopamine.
  2. Orienting System – located in the frontal and temporal areas + the temporal parietal junction, and uses acetylcholine as the messenger.
  3. Executive System – located in the frontal cortex, and uses dopamine as messenger.

Let’s take a look at how it plays out in our lives-

The brain is purpose-driven. Take the ocean, for example. When people observe the ocean, they consider different aspects based on their intentions. They may be inspired to write a poem or adventure story with pirates at sea! They may be interested in studying the biology of marine life or the geological conditions of the surrounding soil for building development.

Each goal is enhanced by attention focusing on how to modify current status in order to achieve intended goals.

Let’s get practical-

We typically associate specific functions with items or systems around us. A creative and “out of the box” perspective requires the divergent thinking skills (examined in an earlier post) required to discover new solutions for current problems.

Here’s an out-of-the-box game to play with your kids.

Ask them to collect three items from around the house, or from outside. Chose something yourself and demonstrate how to take an item with a designated purpose and consider other uses for it. Example: a fruit bowl is obviously used to hold fruit, but it can also be used to collect rain water, or turned upside-down as a stool, and put on your head as a hat.

You can switch things up if you feel extra playful by walking the kids around the house and choosing specific rooms from which to gather their items. “Ok, kids! Now go get 1 thing from the bathroom; now one from the kitchen,” and so on… You can give them each a bag or basket for collecting items. Or, just keep it simple and send them off to find 1 item and bring it back to you for a mini brainstorming session.

There is one book that shows alternative purposes, or perspectives, in a way that will entertain kids, and their parents. It’s called A HOLE IS TO DIG, by Ruth Krauss. When I read this to our kids several years ago, we were in stitches! I’ve never looked at a puddle the same way. I think it’s time to pull it out and read it with my younger ones!

I can’t wait to hear what you all come up with as alternatives to “standard procedure… or perspective!”

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.