How to strengthen your child’s attention span

November 30, 2018
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    The typical preschooler is on the go the whole time, rarely settling quietly at the same activity for more than a few minutes. With limited attention, he flits from one toy to the next. It’s almost as though he has so much energy that he can only concentrate on a toy or game for a very limited amount of time.

    Don’t get frustrated about this, because your child’s attention span is often weak at this age. That’s normal. You’ll notice that his concentration skills spontaneously change during the preschool years, in the following ways. 

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  • From passive to active
    2 / 9 From passive to active

    Whereas a new baby looks at something only when it captures his attention by moving across his field of vision, an older child actively searches and explores. His attention becomes more dynamic and controlled.

    Related: Your kid has a short attention span? He needs to learn this

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  • From unsystematic to systematic discovery
    3 / 9 From unsystematic to systematic discovery

    Watch a young baby pick up and examine, say, a rattle. You’ll notice that he does this in a very haphazard way, and will only look at one or two sections of it. However, an older child explores an object more systematically.

    Related: 4 tips to improve your child’s selective attention

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  • From broad to selective attention
    4 / 9 From broad to selective attention

    A young baby can’t filter out information very well. An older child is more able to focus his attention on one aspect, for instance, he sees the flashing light at the pelican crossing, despite other objects in his visual field.

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  • From short to long
    5 / 9 From short to long

    His ability to keep his attention on one item, while easily blocking out all other competing sights and sounds, steadily improves. An older child concentrates for longer than a young baby.

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  • 6 / 9

    Build his attention
    One of the most effective ways to help increase your child’s attention span is to remove distractions. He is less likely to concentrate for long when, for example, there is music playing in the background. Make his surroundings as distraction-free as possible when trying to keep his attention.

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  • 7 / 9

    For instance, there is no point in asking him to tidy his toys when his eyes are already glued to the television set – although he’ll nod in agreement, he has not really absorbed what you have told him.

    Instead, mute the sound or switch the TV off altogether before speaking to him. And don’t expect him to play with a jigsaw for long if he is surrounded by other competing items, such as building blocks, play figures, or construction toys.

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  • 8 / 9

    There are other ways to improve his attention. For example, once you have given your child an instruction, check out his understanding by asking him to repeat it back to you.

    He’ll probably be irritated by this request but make it anyway – getting him to tell you what you just told him is one of the best ways to check his level of attention and understanding, and it also helps his memory.

    Should he not be able to repeat the instruction accurately, simply tell him again. Repeat this process until you are sure he has listened accurately.

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  • 9 / 9

    Some children have a very short attention span, compared to other children the same age. A useful way of extending a child’s attention span is to give your child a short activity (for instance, playing with crayons), and time how long he persists with this until his attention wanders (say, one minute).

    The next night, let him play with the crayons again but this time, encourage him to persist with the activity for a few seconds longer, and give him lots of praise when he achieves this. Then, gradually increase the amount of time each night, until his attention span is longer.


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