Attention span is a skill best learned early.
This is a very common topic and almost always comes up during an occupational therapy evaluation.Some kids are less attentive than others and some can focus longer. But if your child frequently struggles to complete an age-appropriate task, or has difficulty learning due to always moving on to something else before completing a task, there are things you can do to help:
Tips 1-5- Focus on routine and activities that do not include screen time.
- Keep toys to a minimum. Once your child has outgrown a toy or game, donate it, sell it or store it out of sight. Your child only needs a few good toys at hand in order to be appropriately stimulated. Too many objects in the play area are distracting and hinders focus.
- Depending on age, reduce or eliminate screen time. It is becoming more and more apparent that screen time is messing with kids’ attention spans. Keep tablets and TVs out of your child’s bedroom.
- Have a routine and try to stick to it. Kids thrive on predictability and routine. Schedule waking up and getting ready for the day, mealtime and bedtime around the same times each day. If your child isn’t reading yet you can use a picture chart. Print one here for free.
- Play games with your child. Model task completion by having a beginning and end to an activity. For a very young child, start with a container and several blocks. Open the container, dump out the blocks then count as you help put them all back in and say “all finished!” For older kids, focus on putting a toy or game away when finished. This will build the skill of task completion, which translates to increased attention span.
Tips 6- 10 Movement Can be Key!
- Go outside and move. Playing ball, riding bikes, climbing and swinging at a park or the backyard are all good for letting out energy and promoting strong core muscles, better vision, and good health, resulting in better focus and attention.
- Break a task down into steps. Instead of telling your child to clean up their room, say “pick up the clothes in your room and put them into this basket for the laundry.” Or “find all the pieces to this puzzle”.
- Read to your child. Focus on reading the book from start to finish. Or if you are reading a chapter book, read at least a whole chapter at a time.
- Have healthy snacks on hand. Kids love sugary snacks and lots of carbohydrates. These are known to hinder focus and attention. Keep washed and ready to eat fruit and veggies available.
- Sleep is important for focus and attention at all ages. If your child is past infancy and still not sleeping well, or gets up in the night and comes to your room, their focus and attention will be affected during the day and so will yours. Talk to the doctor and see if your child needs to have their vitamin and/or mineral levels checked. A supplement might help.
- If your child is struggling in school or having difficulty learning or building relationships due to an inability to focus and pay attention, reach out to your healthcare provider. A developmental evaluation can provide insight and understanding. Occupational, physical and speech therapists are also well equipped to provide tools and strategies to help your child succeed at home and at school.