Are you looking for ways to help your child focus? Do you worry about how long they concentrate on one task OR simply want to support this part of their development? Today I have rounded up 5 of my best strategies that will help your child to concentrate for longer!
First of all, Are we expecting too much?
As Arlo has grown, I have really noticed how his concentration levels have changed. I think we often have such high expectations of our children, so first, let’s look at how long an average child should be able to focus for depending on their age.
The average 1 year old can only focus on an activity for around 2-3 minutes. This means, if you create a simple activity, such as pulling pipe cleaners from inside a colander, you can expect them to loose interest after around 3 minutes. I know, just the thought alone is exhausting, right? Don’t worry, keep reading and I will give you some helpful hints to keep playing going!
2 years old don’t fair much better. They should be expected to focus for between 4 to 6 minutes at a time. By 4, the time increases to 8 to 12 minutes and by 6 it reaches 12 to 18 minutes.
This, among many other reasons, is why I have always advocated for simple, easy to set up activities. I would hate to spend half an hour setting up an activity that my child will only use for 6 minutes. Of course, if you enjoy creating them, that’s awesome! But, if it is another thing on your to do list, I recommend scaling back to simple activities. Keep reading and I will give you some handy tips on how to do just that!
- 1 year old: 2-3 minutes
- 2 year olds 4-6 minutes
- 3 year olds: 6 to 8 minutes
- 4 years old: 8 to 12 minutes
- 6 years old: 12 to 18 minutes
- 8 years old: 16 to 24 minutes
Strategies To Improve Concentration
Ensure sensory needs are met
For me, the most important way to help your child, not just with concentration, but with any task they need to do, is to ensure their sensory needs are met. This means, considering things like:
- Are other things going on in the room?
- Is the room too hot or too cold?
- Is it noisy?
- Are their clothes comfortable?
- Are they hungry? Thirsty?
All of these things can create a distraction which prevents your child from staying focused.
Start building good habits
As creator of The Little Learning Hub, I use activities with Arlo regularly. The idea isn’t to force them to sit and do activities for long periods, but to expose them regularly to those activities which require a little more focus. The Little Learning Hub supports this by giving children opportunities to learn in fun ways. This naturally keeps them focused and learning for longer! They are also play based, meaning they can link nicely to hands on tasks such as sensory bases, dice, playdough or cutting and sticking.
Regularly enjoying activities like these provides children with a great start. The more often they do it, the more their concentration will improve. It will also lay a great foundation when it is time for homework and improve focus in school.
Put Health First
I don’t wish to teach grandma to suck eggs, but health really is crucial to developing a sense of concentration. Children who have not slept well, are hungry or poorly, just won’t concentrate very well. The reason I have included this one is as a reminder to give yourself (and your little one) a break. If they are poorly or haven’t had many hours of sleep today, don’t expect too much of them. These things will lead to an inability to focus which is not their fault and therefore, keep that play for the following day – you’ll both enjoy it more then! In these instances, a simple mindfulness activity might be a great option.
Another way to help kids focus is to ensure they are getting a lot of exercise. Burning off that excess energy will clear their mind and improve their lack of focus.
Provide opportunities for independence & curiosity
Another way you can support your little ones ability to focus is by providing regular opportunities for independent play. This could start with something as simple as supporting them to get dressed independently. Alternatively, provide them with a bunch of resources, for example playdough and loose parts, then let them decide what they are going to create. Not only does this help your child to focus on the task at hand, but it significantly helps improve their concentration and focus. The more say they have on their own activity, the more likely they’ll be to stick with it.
Ask your child what they would like to learn about and work with your child until they feel confident enough to work alone. A simple way to help with this is to set up a routine where your little one works while you do other things. They could play at the kitchen table while you cook dinner or play a game of sink or float while you fold the washing.
Another great strategy here is to give your child the tools to work independently. For example, a small cloth to mop up their own spills when painting. A selection of tongs and scoops when doing a sensory play and so on. Your child can use these resources to work independently, without feeling the need to seek adult support.
Finally, build in reflection and quiet time.
In order for your child to focus and concentrate, you must provide them with time to be calm. This could be sitting and listening to music, reading in their book corner or simply laying in the grass looking at the clouds floating by. This reflection time is so important. It brings calm into a chaotic day and helps to focus their minds. Of course, a toddler isn’t going to sit in one place for long, but again this is something you can build up over time.
My top tip to help is to link quiet time to your child’s interests. For example, if they love dinosaurs, listen to an audiobook with a dinosaur theme. If they love cars, try and spot a car shape in the sky.
Have you found a strategy that helped your little one concentrate? Were you surprised by the average concentration times? Let me know in the comments!