children’s attention span

All parents dream of their child developing their passions until they are brilliant pianists, chess masters, doctors or skilled athletes. And for growing children to achieve any success at learning, they need one thing: focus. As parents, we need to give children all the support they can get to develop physically, emotionally, and mentally. And of course, to promote learning, parents must find ways to improve children’s attention span, focus and concentration.

Why Is Focus Important When Learning?

Staying focused is crucial in learning because it allows kids to “stay on track”. When they are able to maintain their attention, they can stick to a task long enough to listen, to understand instructions. and do what it takes to bring it to completion.

Here are some ways you can support the development of your children’s attention span:

How to Improve Concentration in Kids 1-2 Years Old

Reading aloud and telling stories may help in developing your children’s attention span, as well as social and communication skills1.

While it may be tempting to redirect your child to focus on tasks, studies have found that children are more motivated to focus when there is less direct interference from their parents. It is best to follow the child's cues and allow them to organize and direct their actions and outcomes2.

Ensuring your child receives the proper nutrition to support their mental development also goes a long way to improving their focus.

How to Improve Concentration in Kids 2-3 Years Old

It helps to lean on activities that the child is interested in. Encourage them to pay attention to activities that they like and keep from distracting them while they go through it3.

How to Improve Concentration in Kids 3-4 Years Old

You can help keep your kids interested in projects by making them fun. You can make otherwise boring tasks interesting with games and humor3. For example, if you want your child to practice their letters, you can ask them to form a letter using toys or wooden blocks, rather than pencil on paper4.

How to Improve Concentration in Kids 4-6 Years Old

Remember to set aside a reasonable amount of time for your child to perform any given task. At this age, children’s attention span lasts between five to twenty minutes on a task, although this may last longer if the task is enjoyable5.

It may also help to steer your child towards doing one thing at a time5. Part of this is making sure that when it's time to do homework, extraneous distractions are limited. For instance, if your child needs to do homework, this is best done in a quiet spot away from loud noises, devices, or other sources of distraction.

How to Help Your Child Stay Focused When Learning

Here are some tips to boost children’s attention span and overall cognitive development.

1. Make Sure Your Child Is Not Hungry

Just like adults, kids, too, cannot stay focused when they are hungry.

Research into our psychology says we all have limited “cognitive bandwidth” — that’s why we tend to focus on the things we lack. When children are hungry, they focus on food, neglecting other things such as learning6.

Furthermore, persistent hunger may lead to nutritional deficiencies that may impair normal brain development7.

2. Choose Your Child’s Food Carefully

Did you know that some kinds of food might also affect children’s attention span? If your toddler’s diet lacks certain nutrients, they might find it hard to concentrate.

That’s why more than making sure that kids are not hungry, you should also make healthy food choices for them. Be sure to include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, dairy, and healthy fats8.

In addition, consider adding brain food to their diet for a healthy mind9. Some of these brain foods are:

  • Protein from eggs, poultry, seafood, and dairy

  • Iron, which you can find in fortified bread, lean meat, beans and lentils, and dark leafy vegetables

  • Zinc, which you can find in meat and dairy products

  • Folate from fortified cereals and bread, as well as spinach

  • Choline found in eggs, dairy products, and meat

  • Iodine, which is abundant in iodized salt

Of course, vitamins are also an important brain food. Make sure your child gets enough vitamins from a variety of sources. Vitamin D from sunlight exposure is also essential for healthy brain development.

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3. Be Careful with Children’s Snacks

Always keep children’s snacking habits in mind. Food that has high levels of sugar or refined carbohydrates might have some effect on children’s activity levels10. Since refined carbohydrates enter the blood quickly, your child may become hyperactive and distracted.

For this reason, choose their snacks wisely. Instead of refined sugars, consider giving your child oatmeal, yogurt, or sliced fruits and vegetables. Helping your child focus in school begins with what you pack in their lunchbox.

4. Be Mindful of Activities

Do you want your toddler to stay focused? If so, you need to carefully think about their activities for the day.

Whether you’re homeschooling or just teaching daily lessons, be sure to reduce or eliminate distractions. As much as possible, break complicated tasks down into smaller activities — that way, they’ll be able to focus on simpler, more manageable jobs.

Also, consider having kids do activities that boost children’s attention span. You can try activities like solving puzzles, reading books, engaging with building toys, or playing memory games.

Finally, don’t forget that kids do well with routines. Set aside time for all the activities they have to do daily, such as chores, playtime and study time. That way, they will know what to expect and they’ll be able to focus better.

5. Bring Kids to Routine Checkups

Do you often wonder about how to improve attention span of a child because your little one is having trouble focusing? It could be a sign of a common neurodevelopmental disorder. Bring your child to a physician and explain the things you notice. If your child finds it hard to focus, they might have a condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.

When a child has ADHD, he or she might11:

  • Be restless

  • Have a shorter attention span, which means they are unable to prioritize or focus

  • Be forgetful

  • Have the habit of starting a new task without finishing the last one

The sooner you detect if your little one has attention span problems such as ADHD, the sooner you can intervene, too, and find solutions to continue their learning and development.

For a child to learn effectively, he or she must have a good attention span. To help them focus or concentrate, be mindful of their diet and nutrition, as well as their daily activities. If you notice problems with how they cannot stay focused, bring them to the doctor for a checkup.

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1 Reading and storytelling with babies and children. (2020, December 14). The Australian Parenting website.
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2 Focused Attention in Toddlers. (2008, August). US National Library of Medicine.
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3 Children and Age-Appropriate Attention Spans. (2013, May 5). Speech Therapy Centres of Canada.
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4 How to Improve Your Child’s Attention Spans. (2021, January 7).
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5 Tips for Helping Your Child Focus and Concentrate (2016, January 28). PBS Kids.
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6 What Are The Psychological Effects of Hunger in Children? (n.d.). American Psychological Association (APA).
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7 Nutrition and brain development in early life. (2014, April 1). OUP Academic.
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8 Feeding toddlers ages 1 to 3: Foods, serving size & what to avoid. (n.d.).Cleveland Clinic.
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9 The crucial brain foods all children need. (2018, January 23). Harvard Health.
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10 Hyperactivity and sugar: MedlinePlus medical encyclopedia. (n.d.). MedlinePlus - Health Information from the National Library of Medicine.
Accessed Aug. 15, 2021.
11 Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (30 May 2018). NHS.
Accessed Nov 11, 2021