Let us start this off by saying children are not supposed to have the attention span that adults do. It is generally accepted that on average, children should be able to concentrate on something for 2-3 minutes, per year of age. So your 3-year-old should only be able to focus on one thing for around 9 minutes at a time. That doesn’t mean that you can’t help them to reach those minutes or transcend to the next age group concentration bracket. Here are a few ways to do just that.
Get them to sit down
When it comes to young children, this may not be that easy! Toddlers seem to have an abundance of energy just waiting to come out. To help them concentrate, but also expend that energy in other ways – get them to sit down and do a sensory or ‘messy’ activity. This could be making slime (sorry mom!) or rolling out playdough. In this way, their body is more focused and allows them to concentrate on the task at hand, but their energy is still being used through the sensory activity.
If you try to get your child to concentrate for longer, you have to do it slowly but surely. Let’s take reading time as an example. If you usually read one to two pages with them, try adding an extra paragraph every few nights. In this way, their brains can adjust to listening for slightly longer periods without putting strain on them all at once. Of course, children will naturally pay more attention to things that they love, so choosing reading material that resonates with them is a must.
Get them to help you
Getting your young child to help you do a task is a great way to improve their concentration skills. If they are assisting you in the kitchen in a fun way, not only are they focusing on the activities, but they’re also listening to instructions. Perhaps they are helping put away groceries on lower shelves and cupboards. During the whole task, they are focusing on the end goal of an empty shopping bag. But when you hand them an item and tell them where to put it, they also focus on that. It is the start of their minds being able to multitask. Remember not to overwhelm them. Give them one thing, with one instruction at a time. Make sure they know to come back to you after putting something away, so that they don’t wander off and lose their focus.
Turn off the screens
We had to say it! Having young children, especially in the first two years of their lives, spend time watching a screen is bad for their concentration. Dr. Dimitri Christakis states that studies show, “Prolonged exposure to rapid image changes (like on a TV show designed for an infant) during critical periods of brain development may precondition the mind to expect high levels of stimulation. This may then make the pace of real life less able to sustain our children’s attention. The more hours a child views rapid-fire television, the more likely they will have attention challenges later in life”
Toptots Early Learning SA