Attention Span Tips

Attention span is a developing trait through the preschool and grade school years. Children are gradually learning to be better listeners, to sit and attend through activities, to block out distractors and to listen and follow directions. There are many ways to encourage attention to tasks including

  • Build on their interests – If your child is into dinosaurs, find ways to build that into to learning math with dinosaur counters. Challenge their listening with dinosaur books.
  • Build on what they already know –  When you move from 10 piece to 25 piece puzzles, start by reviewing previous puzzle strategy and talk about how they have approached similar tasks.
  • Think gradual progress – Read gradually longer stories, complete gradually harder puzzles and play gradually longer games.
  • Challenge them to set and accomplish goals – Occasionally before they play, have them plan what tasks they are going to accomplish then help them work through the tasks before moving on.
  • Play listening games – Games like telephone, robot and grandma’s house are fun ways to challenge their attention span.
  • Work to keep them there just a little bit longer – When they are finishing with an activity, is the time to challenge them to find one more way to engage, something to extend the play.
  • Teach them to review and consider their own efforts – Sometimes when they draw or write, ask them if this was their best effort or if there is anything they could improve about their product the next go around.

There is an interesting chapter in Nurture Shock by Bronson and Merryman on teaching impulse control. It’s a good take on the current research and practices around slowing kids down and getting them to think.

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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