How to Increase a Child's Attention Span

By Erica Loop
Hemera Technologies/ Images

If your little one wiggles and squirms during story time at the library, her teacher notes that she she daydreams during class or you notice she loses focus on occasion when you talk to her, you can do something about it. As long as your child doesn't have a diagnosed attention deficit disorder -- keep in mind that only a medical or psychological professional can diagnose this -- you can help her increase her attention span as she grows and develops.

Step 1

Set realistic goals based on your child's age. Avoid attention-span objectives that are out of reach for your child's developmental level. For example, it's completely normal for a toddler or preschooler to struggle when trying to pay attention. Expecting your preschooler to sit quietly and listen to a story for a longer period of time -- such as half an hour -- isn't realistic. Give your child tasks that take between two and five minutes per age year to make them manageable.

Step 2

Give your child a task he enjoys or has an interest in. Pick an activity you know he likes -- such as asking your 6-year-old mini Monet to paint a picture -- allowing his natural interest to boost his attention to the task at hand.

Step 3

Transform tasks your child finds boring into more exciting activities. For example, if she yawns at the thought of a math lesson but enjoys the outdoors, take her outside to count and add trees or different species of flowers.

Step 4

Pay attention to your child. Direct your own attention and energy toward your child when he is sitting down to do homework, asking him questions or offering a helping hand, or read a story with your younger child.

Step 5

Add time to simple tasks, such as reading a book or writing out homework, gradually. For example, ask your 8-year-old to spend 15 minutes reading a book and add five minutes the next week and another five the following week.

Step 6

Allow your child to explore and make her own discoveries. Avoid expecting a preschooler or young child to sit still and work on one project without stopping. Instead, encourage her to explore the task at hand, trying it in different ways or experimenting with new materials.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.