Updated: May 13, 2021
The expected attention span of young children often comes as a surprise to most people. Many assume it should be longer, but like anything else a child learns, e.g. crawling, walking, talking etc, it takes time and practice to develop.
Parents and teachers alike can become frustrated when children won't sit still or concentrate for large amounts of time, particularly when the activity doesn't interest them. It's important to remember what is considered developmentally normal, as well as why something isn't holding their attention.
Some hints and points to remember:
Celebrate small wins each time a child concentrates in play or on a task.
Reduce screen time - this is unfortunately linked to reduced concentration skills, and doesn’t provide sufficient practice as it is considered ‘passive entertainment’ as the brain doesn't have to do the work.
Children are more likely to focus if they enjoy what they are doing, which is why learning through play is so effective! It is also why focusing on strengths and interests ensures genuine engagement for longer.
You just can't "force" a child's attention span - it takes support, understanding and facilitating.
Keep in mind that environmental, situational and physical aspects can impact on a child’s attention span, e.g. feeling sick, being too hot/cold, a noisy environment, tiredness, being hungry, or needing to go to the toilet
Developing a good attention span can have a positive impact on future life-long learning
Written by Ms. Sheridan - Head of Early Childhood Education (Nursery & Kindergarten)