Attention Span

Stimulate My Brain

Attention span refers to the amount of time your child is able to concentrate on or focus on a single activity.


Gabe wants to have a friend over for a play date. Mom agrees to have one friend come over. Mom says to Gabe, “Your friend is coming over. What should we do?” Gabe says, “A dance party! We love to dance. Look at me move.” Mom thinks for a moment and says, “Okay! Dance party it is. You have to help me get things ready.” Gabe says, “I’ll get the music!” Gabe goes to his parents’ room and grabs Mom’s guitar for her. “Here you go, Mom!” Gabe’s friend arrives with her mom, and they go downstairs to have fun. In the beginning the children are talking and playing. Gabe’s mom says, “It’s time for a dance party!” Gabe and his friend scream “Yeah!” and jump up and down. Mom tells the children, “For the first part of our dance party you can dance until the music stops. When the music stops you should stop dancing.” Mom begins to play her guitar. After a few short minutes she stops and starts it again. After doing this several times, Gabe’s mom says, “Now I want you to listen for me to strum the guitar fast. When you hear me stop you should stop dancing and listen.” Gabe and his friend dance and stop for 30 seconds then dance again until they are all danced out. Gabe’s friend says, “That was so fun, Gabe! Can I come to your house again?”


Through this activity Mom gives the children an opportunity to practice attention skills, especially when she asks them to listen for the guitar playing. Mom also helps the children develop attention skills because this activity allows both children to actively participate as opposed to passively listen during the entire activity.

Supporting the development of your child’s attention skills, along with his self-regulation skills, will form his foundation for learning. Strong attention skills will set the stage for your child to have success in everything from learning math to his social relationships.

In addition, strong attention skills can help your child learn to read before age five, have improved memory, and achieve a host of other amazing milestones.

Typically, your child will have the most difficulty with paying attention during activities that involve sitting and listening. This is normal behavior, and it occurs because at this age your child will become bored very easily and needs a variety of activities to stimulate his whole brain.

Your child’s left side of the brain, which deals directly with logic, language, critical thinking, numbers, and reasoning can be referred to as the “seat of learning;” it is eager to take on new information. Provide lots of simple brain-stimulating activities so that your child can learn and develop his attention span.

Your three year old has a limited attention span. Build up attention skills over time. Do an activity for a minute, and then later do the same activity for a few minutes longer.

Over the next week, do at least two of the listed activities in the box to the lef t with your child. Start doing the activity every three days and then build up to every day. Building your child’s attention span takes time and encouragement, and development must continue well into adolescence.

The quantity, quality, and consistency of stimulation you provide through experiences with your child will play a part in the developing structure of his brain and its capacity. By strengthening your child’s brain, you will improve his ability to focus and pay attention to any task that he becomes involved in.

Help build attention span

1. Speak a language of attention— Attention is a set of three skills: focus, awareness, and a set of mental skills that helps your child get things done, e.g. planning and decision making. Play Spot the Letter on a car ride. As you drive, call out a letter for your child to spot along the way, choosing easy to see objects like a stop sign for the letter S.

2. Focus on one another—A meeting of the minds comes from focusing on something together. Set the table for dinner together with your child.

3. White space, also known as uninterrupted time—Put an end to distractions to support developing at tention skills in your child and provide a space for him to focus. Limit TV time, video games, and other electronics.

4. Eat mindfully—You may have noticed we are a society that eats on the run. Take time to stop and eat as a family, talking together about the food you are eating, how it smells, looks, and tastes.