At the age of 18 months, a typical toddler will spend about 30 seconds on an activity, or a couple of minutes among multiple activities, before wanting attention from a caregiver. So, if it feels as though your young child has a pretty short attention span, you’re right—and that’s perfectly normal.
By the time that same child is three years old, though, he or she may spend three to eight minutes on an interesting activity; by the age of five, ten to 15 minutes if the activity is appealing. To find out more about typical attention spans by age, you can consult this chart by ParentingPress.com.
Now, here are four strategies to improve your child’s attention span.
No. 1: Pay attention to what your child is finding to be interesting.
LiveScience.com shared study results that showed how, when parents paid attention to a toy that their one-year-olds were playing with, playtime lasted longer. This study, the lead author says, suggests that “real-time behaviors of parents” can actually increase attention spans of their young children. This is something that goes against traditional wisdom that says infants’ brains aren’t influenced by the behavior of people around them.
Researchers also believe that ongoing social interactions between parents and their infants may strengthen brain pathways in the children in ways that will help them to sustain attention and concentration. So, the study’s author says:
- Actively engage with your children, playing with them rather than just being in the room while they play.
- Let the child take the lead in choosing play activities.
- Be responsive to what your infant needs and to where he or her attention is directed.
No. 2: Creativity Can Go a Long Way
In Parents.com, a writer shares how her five-year-old son can fidget and lose interest while she’s trying to teach him how to write his letters. As a solution, she recommends turning something dull into something fun!
Instead of just telling him to practice writing the letter “A” into his notebook with a normal pencil, suggest that he:
- Write with colorful chalk
- Shape it with Play-Doh
- Trace it with paint on a large easel
To help your child to pay attention for a longer period of time, let him or her use pictures cut out of magazines to make an ABC book together. Apples go on the “A” page, the baseball goes on the “B” page and so forth. Or use blocks to create letters; this helps with fine motor skills, besides being more interesting.
When you go on walks together, point out intriguing birds and share what you know about them—or take a closer look at oddly-shaped rocks, or whatever else grabs your child’s interest and helps to improve his or her attention span.
No. 3: Use the Wiggles to Your Advantage
If your child is struggling to pay attention on the task at hand, he or she may need a chance to break loose. Just 10 to 15 minutes of active play, whether that means jumping jacks, stretching, or jogging in place, can make a huge difference. Afterwards, your child may have a renewed ability to focus for a longer period of time.
No. 4: Monitor Screen Time
If your child spends plenty of time playing on the computer or watching television, then he or she may become overloaded with information and, therefore, hyper-stimulated. Limit screen time and encourage reading, walking, arts and crafts, board games, active play and the like. It can also help to teach your child simple relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, to help increase attention spans.