Attention Span

All Eyes on You

Attention span refers to your child’s ability to focus on a person and activity while ignoring other distracting things in the environment.


Mom and Chloe are looking through a picture book at her desk. Mom asks Chloe to f ind three things on the page that are pink. Chloe points to a pink dress on the page and says, “Look, a pink dress!” but then loses focus and interest when it comes to finding two other pink items. Mom notices this and says, “Chloe, why don’t we find two more pink items before we turn the page?” Chloe then looks at the page again and finds another pink item. “Good job!” Mom says as they turn to read the next page.


With Mom’s help, Chloe is able to focus on the activity of finding three pink items longer than if she had done the activity alone. Mom is realistic in offering Chloe a simple activity when she asks her to find the pink items and does not force her to pay attention longer than two minutes.

In order for your child to learn about or remember something, she must stop and pay attention. You will see your child’s attention span grow tremendously over this year of her life. At the beginning of age two your child’s attention span for one single activity is only about 30–60 seconds, but with your encouragement and involvement can soon last between two to three minutes.

By two and a half, your child is becoming more independent, and you will see her able to focus on an activity independently for up to two minutes if the activity is of interest to her.

By doing the following as a parent you will support developing your child’s attention skills so she can engage in focused play activities:

1. Be mindful of how your child is feeling and what mood she is in, because when your child is sad, unhappy, tired, cranky, or just not ready to do an activity, her ability to focus decreases and paying attention becomes more difficult.

2. Set up the environment in which your activity will take place.

3. Make sure the area is not disturbed by loud noises or distractions from a TV or other electronic devices.

4. Be mindful of frequent interruptions by others as this can cause your child to lose focus on the activity in front of her.

Following these four steps, coupled with having an activity that is of interest to your child will enable your child to develop better at tention skills.

If your child becomes distracted, provide support by making face-to face contact and saying your child’s name out loud, then remind your child of the activity you are working on. Keep in mind that speaking slowly and calmly and praising your child for her efforts at paying attention is most effective for keeping her engaged. Attention is a very important skill for your two year old to have, because it is the groundwork for future development of memory and intelligence; however, attention is a difficult skill for your child to acquire, so give her time.