Improving Your Toddler’s Attention Span

Improving your toddler’s attention span will help prepare them for future learning.
Children need to develop their attention spans, ability to concentrate, self-regulation and
other executive functioning skills so that they can develop emotionally, socially and
Parents may wonder what an appropriate attention span is for young children? The
amount of time your youngster is able to focus will be fairly short right now, but will grow
as they practice and gain stamina. In general, an average period of time young children
can maintain focus on a task is about 2-3 minutes per year of their age.
When working on your child’s attention, try to minimize sensory inputs and distractions
by turning off screens, reducing background noise, or moving to a quiet room. Your
toddler is more likely to stay focused on an activity or toy that they choose. Follow your
child’s lead. Notice where your child looks or reaches and then focus on that object
together. Research shows that when parents and their toddlers focused on a toy
together (“joint attention”), the toddlers paid attention for longer and engaged in more
complex play. In the studies, after even just a few minutes of joint play together,
toddlers continued to play with the toys on their own.
One way to extend your child’s attention to an activity is to find a task that is just a little
challenging for them. When a task is too easy, they can become bored; if it is too hard,
your child may become overly frustrated and give up. You can also increase your
child’s focused attention by gradually extending the amount of time you read together.
When reading a favorite book together, try adding to the story by making comments or
asking questions. You can ask your child to point out certain objects or actions on the
The goal is to gradually increase the amount of time your child spends on an activity.
Once they communicate that they are done, encourage them to try ”just one more” of
what they are doing.

Suarez-Rivera, C., Smith, L. B., & Yu, C. (2019). Multimodal parent behaviors within
joint attention support sustained attention in infants. Developmental Psychology, 55(1),

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