Learn how you can improve your kid's attention span
Learn how you can help your child focus better than ever with a little help from child development experts!
Experts in child development believe that by the age of 4 or 5, a child should be able to maintain focus on a particular task for about 4 to 20 minutes--give or take. Of course, the task at hand hand is a variable to be taken into account, still, experts claim that this timeframe is typically used as a rule of thumb amongst experts in the field.
Neal Rojas, M.D., a developmental behavioral pediatrician at the University of California, San Francisco claims that "Attention span has to be contextualized. Are we talking about the first thing in the morning, the middle of day, before naptime, before bedtime? I tell [parents] that they will see a variation throughout the day. Attention span is elastic."
So, what can a parent do to make the most of their children's attention span, and how can they improve them? These child development specialists share their best tips and tricks for helping parents to boost their kids' focus! Check out what they had to say:
If you want to get undivided attention from your children, you should be willing to give them yours. Furthermore, a parent should expect that it's more difficult to get the attention of a young child and should cater to this. After all, the willingness of a child to maintain focus directly relates to that kid's level of enjoyment with a task or topic. Basically, if your kid is bored, he won't care to pay attention for much longer than need be.
The first time you introduce an activity that is more important to you than to your child, you are testing your creativity and flexibility as a parent and teacher," Dr. Rojas says.
4 and 5-year-old kids are often asked to engage in repetitive, structured learning activities during school hours. There's nothing wrong with these important learning activities, but it should be understood that asking kids to engage in more repetitive tasks when they return home from a log day of school won't yield successful results in most cases. This is when parents should flex their creative muscles and turn something dull into something fun! Instead of tracing letters in a workbook, try finger painting the letter, or even crafting it with Play-Doh or Legos. Stimulate your kids instead of adding to tasks best described as monotonous.
Margret Nickels, Ph.D., a clinical psychologists and the director of the Center for Children & Families at the Erikson Institute suggests that for parents to gain full attention from their children, they should keep close to monitor their focus. They'll need your physical attention as much as your mental attention. "Being in close physical proximity while giving clear and concise instructions helps children focus better on what is being said. The best way to get them to pay attention is to be physically close to the child. Don't shout requests from the kitchen to the living room," Dr. Nickels says.
Your young children aren't too different from you, Mom and Dad. That means--like you--when they're hungry or tired, staying focused can be problematic. If you want to make sure they're at the top of their game, try making time for snacktime or naptime before starting tasks like homework or chores. Just be sure that you're feeding them healthy and appropriate snacks. According to the Mayo Clinic, some smart choices include whole-grain pretzels, raw veggies dipped in fat-free dressing or hummus, yogurt, and peanut butter spread on a banana or apple. And, make sure that you're allowing a proper amount of recharge time. "Everyone needs downtime. It helps us to come back and focus. If kids don't have downtime and they're overscheduled, they may plead for downtime through their behavior," Dr. Rojas suggests. "They may go against the routine or demands we're making, [which tells] us they need some wiggle room for their minds to wander and relax."
Be sure that when you're asking kids to start a task that requires a lot of focus that you're not setting them up for failure. That means no rooms with TVs, not fiddling with phones, and no chatting with older/younger siblings.
For years, studies have aimed to prove the important role of exercise in a kid's lifestyle. Interestingly, research has proven that there is in fact a direct link between a child's attention span and how much (or little) they exercise. In 2010, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research review revealed that elementary school children who took breaks from classwork to be active during the day could concentrate better on schoolwork.
In a handful of additional studies, parents who prioritized exercise in their family's lifestyle raised more active children. In turn, these kids were able to pay attention for longer stints. If your child enjoys a certain sport or outdoor activity, try to to nurture their passion for it and make sure they have fun doing it so they'll stay interested.
A 2011 study published in Pediatrics found that SpongeBob SquarePants and other fast-paced cartoons shortened the attention spans of 4-year-olds. Overstimulation and exposure to television, computers, and video games can really hurt attention spans in the long run. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours per day of total high-quality screen time, including TV, videos, computers, phones, and video games. In addition, kids under age 2 should not be exposed to any screen time and other entertainment media.
If parents want to improve their youngster's ability to stay focused on any given task, all it takes is a little research and hard work. Kids are naturally inclined to have a lesser attention span than elders, but if parents can work to help nurture a healthy mental and physical lifestyle, they'll be handing their children the keys to succeed!