Developing Your Child’s Attention Span
Something that many parents dread is a child with an extremely short attention. The implications of such a thing are quite apparent in a child’s education since these children have trouble retaining information that they were unable to concentrate on in the first place.
It is worth noting right away that there are two very important truths about attention span that people tend to ignore. Firstly, children with short attention spans are not “stupid”, “unintelligent” or “disabled” because attention span doesn’t have any bearing on intelligence. The child can have a short attention span but he or she could be very intelligent, creative or quick-witted.
Secondly, babies and toddlers have short attention spans to begin with and it takes years of development before they begin to develop the ability to focus on one task to the degree that adults are used to. Patience and acceptance will go a long way in nurturing your child’s attention span, ability to focus and continue to develop.
Attention Spans Differ By Age
Infants and toddlers have vastly different attention spans. Infants between the ages of 8-15 months will get distracted by any new activity or event and they cannot focus on anything for longer than a minute on average. Toddlers between the ages of 3-4 years can focus on an activity for 8-10 minutes on average and even shift their attention to adult talking to him/her before getting back to said activity.
This vast difference in attention span sheds light on two important factors. We note that there are general measurements for a child’s attention span at every age and armed with this information, a parent can observe their child’s behaviour and make a good estimate about the child’s attention span.
This also tells us that we shouldn’t push the child to retain too much at an early age. Children are absorbing a lot of information especially as infants and we cannot hope to change their development speed that easily.
When Should I Worry?
The best test for a child’s attention span as a toddler is to note how much your toddler can focus on a task/activity at the beginning of a calendar year (his/her age 3 year) and if that focus time has increased at the end of the year. If you feel that there is not improvement in attention span, then consult a healthcare provider such as the child’s doctor first.
Many doctors check for signs of sleep-deprivation or hyperactivity, which can affect the nature of a child’s development. Tests by professionals will help diagnose if there are any problems with attention span at all. Never assume the worst but keep working with your child to improve concentration and focus.
Improving an Attention Span
One of the most interesting studies about increasing brain activity and attention span in children is playing outdoors. Playing in nature for 20 minutes a day has been shown to increase a child’s ability to deal with external stimulus and reduced tendency to be distracted.
A very realistic strategy for a parent to help develop their child is to spend time with them. 15 minutes a day without interruption is a good place for you to start. It doesn’t have to be a specific task and you don’t have to schedule any particular activity.
The key is to spend time with your child and he/she will be more likely to focus and continue working on something as you won’t be getting up and leaving anytime soon. Children always mirror their parents, so if you sit tight and focus on something with your child, he/she will emulate you to some degree.
Once again, it is very important to understand that this is a time-consuming process. Children take time to mature and grow and the attention you give them will help a lot. Focus and attention span will grow eventually and you must never lose your patience with your children but encourage them as much as possible.