For many parents, taking care of their young children is a tough challenge because of the boundless energy they have. It is not uncommon to see children move from one activity to the other and stick with it for only a few minutes.
When this does happen, don’t panic and get stressed out. Your child’s attention span is still developing, which is why they tend to lose focus quite often. Once they go to school, their concentration patterns shift again.
But, how does it shift? Here are several ways on how your child’s attention span changes:
Shift to A Systematic Discovery
When young babies are given something to hold or pick up, they only examine it in two ways rather than look at every side of the item they are holding.
However, when they grow older, they start to get curious and look at the item systematically. They would look at all the sides of the item, take it apart and try putting it back together again. This is also the beginning of problem-solving skills.
From Passive to Active Focus
Passive focus occurs when a baby sees something pass by his direct field of vision. They will focus on that item that is directly in their eyesight and not looks for anything else to look into.
As a child grows older, their focus becomes active and they will actively search for things to interest them.
At this stage, the child’s attention is now controlled because they are now exploring the things around them. We want to encourage them to be curious at this point.
When it comes to information retention, babies cannot filter them properly and fail to focus on what the information is all about. Oftentimes, you will need to keep repeating the information before the idea sticks to the baby.
For older children, they can filter between information they hear and read, allowing them to focus on one area.
For example, if you give him a selection of toys and put their favourite in the middle, they will immediately zoom into their favourite toy and not think of the others beside it.
Attention and Focus become longer
For babies, they cannot focus on one item for long because there are a lot of things around them that is getting their attention.
But, as they grow older, their capability to keep their attention on an item and block out the others improves greatly. This is important as they will not be distracted from their homework and focus on the task on hand.
Build His Attention
If you are worried about your toddler’s attention span, especially when they turned 3 years old and about to enter preschool, do not worry because there are ways which can help increase it.
Here are some tips you can follow to strengthen their attention span:
1. Remove distractions
The best way you can help your toddler’s attention span is by removing all possible distractions. If they are trying to read a book, for example, put away the gadgets and put them in a faraway place so they won’t be tempted to reach for them.
With the distractions out of the way, they will be able to focus on the item or activity they are doing. I find that the students I tutored absorb better when they are in a conducive learning environment.
2. Learn your child’s learning style
Every child learns differently, influencing how they take in instruction and focus on it.
If your child tends to take in information when they are given a visual instruction, create flashcards and allow them to read from it. If they learn better through action, let them touch the item closely and teach them how it works.
It is easy to create your own flashcards without spending a lot of money. I come across plenty of resources online that provides guidelines and pictures to make a pack of your own.
3. Ask your child if they understood your instruction
Whenever you give an instruction to your child, like clean their room and put their items in their place – ask them to repeat the instruction.
At first, your child might get irritated when you ask them to repeat what you said to them. If they managed to tell you the instructions you just gave them in their own words, it means they understood and focused on your words. Remember, their memory is also developing. It takes a lot of patience from both sides!
If he is unable to tell you the instructions, simply repeat it again and check if they understood. Keep repeating until they repeated it clearly.
4. Encourage your child
Some children have shorter attention span than their peers and may require extra encouragement.
A good way to help these children is by giving them a short activity and time how long they would take to move their attention elsewhere. One simple and short activity I love is to get younger children to name countries or toys according to alphabets using sticker or flash cards.
On the next day, let them do the same activity again, but this time, encourage them to continue doing the activity for longer. Praise them as they do so.
Slowly, your child’s attention span will grow longer and develops.
5. Change their diet
Sometimes, a child’s attention span is affected by the food they eat. Sugary treats, like soft drinks, would only cause your child to get a sudden boost of energy and cause them to crash afterwards.
Try changing your child’s diet and feed them with food rich with protein like eggs, lean meat and almonds. A good diet benefits the whole family. I have greatly reduced salt intake once I started watching my toddler’s diet since I’m preparing meals for both of us!
6. Create a routine
Keep a schedule for your child to follow so they will be able to concentrate on their task better and build their time management.
If their routine says they have to study after they play, they will be able to focus better on their studies after their playtime.
7. Schedule naps and breaks
Some children focus and concentrate better if they get a good night sleep. So, after school, try scheduling power naps to let them rest from their busy day in school.
Once they wake up, they will be recharged and ready to focus on their studies and their other activities.
8. Give them small tasks instead of giving them a big task
If your child has a lot of activities or tasks to do, they will find it difficult to focus or start on a task. Not many adults are able to multi-task as well, I know I don’t perform at my best if I need to juggle so many tasks at the same time.
Give your toddler small tasks and let them do them at their own pace. When they succeed in doing these tasks, praise them.
As a child grows, it is important that us parents help them in whatever way we can so they will be able to do the tasks before them. In terms of their attention span, keep calm and learn what is affecting your child’s focus and attention span.
With the tips we cited above, we hope that you will be able to adjust your child’s routine accordingly and help them strengthen their attention span.