Respect Your Child’s Attention Span

We are big on play and say. But we also say, take it at your child’s pace and ability to concentrate.

thumbnail_respectyourchildSorry if the headline sounds a little “prescriptive”. I do feel quite strongly about this because too often, people try to do too much with their child.

And when the child gets bored or distracted or both, the parent gets frustrated. Or they think their child has ADHD or is “hyperactive”.

Therefore, I decided to find out if there is such a thing as a “normal” attention span by age.

Some research has shown that children 5-6 years old are capable of paying attention to an activity that interests them, for about 15 minutes.

Miss Ling Bee Lain, (K2 Head of Level, St James Church Kindergarten) says, “The 6 year-olds in my class are able to discuss a topic for 20 minutes and more.”

Miss Agnes Ng, Principal, Heguru Method @Fusionopolis adds that “in general, infants and toddlers have shorter attention spans.”

“High activity level is typical of toddlers 2 and 3 years old. Mentally, these children are highly exploratory.”

Factors that may affect attention span

  • Time of the day
  • Listening skills
  • Interest in activity
  • Presence of distraction (s)
  • Fatigue e.g near nap times
  • Context e.g magic show at a party
  • Skills of the facilitator or caregiver
  • Whether the child has been over stimulated

Should we try and improve attention span? Why?
The answer is a resounding yes from my two experts.

Says Bee Lain of St James’ Church Kindergarten, “Parents should be aware that they can develop their child’s ability to pay attention. Having a good attention span will certainly make a difference to a child’s learning. When a child is attentive, he or she becomes an active learner in class, and this will build the child’s confidence and competence.”

Agnes of Heguru Method @Fusionopolis also cautions, “Studies have shown that children who enter formal schooling such as primary school without the ability to pay attention and remember instructions have more difficulty in schools.”

How? How?

I love these ideas from Agnes and Bee Lain. Read on for inspiration!

Bee Lain:

  • Through stories, encourage them to listen out for key words and respond accordingly. For example, when the children hear the name of an animal, they could make a sound that represents the animal.
  • Challenge them to read a list of words e.g. ‘mango, papaya, strawberry, watermelon’ in reverse order. Increase the level of difficulty by adding more words to the list.
  • Hold children’s attention by springing surprises on them. Ask them to close their eyes and ask questions like “Where is the red paint?”

Agnes:

  • Parents can serve as role models. Use language such as ” I must finish this and then I’ll rest.”
  • Praise them for completing a task to strengthen behavior.
  • Organize your room to minimize distractions. For example, before attempting flashcards, remove distractions such as toys.
  • Practice puzzles at home.

Cultivate good learning habits such as daily reading with the child

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