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Methods of Developing Attention in Children

Methods of Developing Attention in Children

Children's attention development is an important part of a healthy development process in general. Attention is a mental process that involves children's ability to focus, observe and process information. Attention skills have an important place in many processes in children's daily life. As parents, we often observe how our children do something, how much they focus on something or how much they cannot focus on something. In this article, let's focus on attention development in children and emphasise the importance of this development.

What is Attention Span in Children?

Attention refers to the child's ability to consciously focus on a task or stimulus. Children's attention span may vary depending on their age, developmental level and individual differences. There are three main components of attention: selective attention (the ability to distinguish one stimulus from others), sustained attention (long-term focus) and divided attention (the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously).

For example, a child's selective attention means that when playing a game or engaging in a task, they focus their attention on the stimuli required by the game or task. Other noises, movements or distractions are ignored without affecting the child's selective attention. Selective attention is important for many daily activities. The skill of selective attention is used in tasks such as learning, working, reading, writing or understanding things. Selective attention is also used in activities that require attention, to filter out distractions and to filter out unnecessary information. Selective attention can be developed over time and strengthened with practice. Regularly engaging in activities that require selective attention and reducing distractions in the environment can help to strengthen selective attention skills.

In another example, when reading a book or working on a task, sustained attention allows the child to keep his/her attention on the text or task for an extended period of time. During this time, he/she can focus and complete the task successfully without paying attention to distractions. Sustained attention can change over time and some children may be able to sustain attention for longer periods of time, while others may lose attention more quickly. Different factors can influence sustained attention, such as stress, sleep patterns, motivation levels and environmental stimuli.

For children, divided attention is important in situations such as performing multiple tasks in daily life, coping with multiple activities in the classroom, or responding to multiple stimuli during play. For example, a child talking to a friend while playing a game at the same time or being exposed to a distracting stimulus while performing a task requires divided attention.

Stages of Attention Development in Children

Attention development in children goes through different stages depending on age. If we look at these stages in detail:

Infancy Period (0-12 months): In this period, babies naturally pay attention to the stimuli around them. Newborn babies are especially interested in faces and moving objects. At around 3-4 months of age, their visual attention becomes sharper and they become more focussed on objects. At the same time, babies also pay attention to sounds and react to familiar sounds.

First Childhood Period (1-3 years): During this period, children can focus their attention for longer periods of time and participate in more complex games. For example, with activities such as puzzles, they can focus their attention on a task and sustain it for longer. At the same time, they pay attention to and follow other children in social games.

Early Childhood (3-6 years): In this period, children can direct their attention to more tasks or sets of stimuli. The ability to follow complex instructions develops and they can participate in long-term games or projects. Also, children can now use better strategies to focus their attention.

Primary School Age (6-12 years): During this period, children's attention spans become longer and they can focus their attention on more complex tasks. They develop the ability to sustain attention in lessons and at school. Children can manage their attention with more independence and take more responsibility for tasks that require their attention.

It is important to remember again that each child is unique and attention development can occur at different rates. Some children may have more developed attention skills at an earlier age, while others may require more time and experience. These stages provide a general road map, but each child has a unique attention development process.

How to Support Attention Development in Children?

One of the most important things for parents to support attention development in children is to closely follow the child's development and take into account the child's developmental needs. Being a parent requires being a good observer. This should not be taken from a place that imposes responsibility. Although the child becomes able to express his/her physical needs as he/she grows up, it will be quite difficult for him/her to make his/her own mental supervision, so the primary caregivers have an important job here. Let's take a closer look at some alternatives to support attention development.

Establishing a Routine: Establishing a regular routine for children helps them develop the ability to focus and direct their attention. Regular activities such as sleeping, eating, playing and homework at certain times make it easier for children to focus their attention. Children focus better when they know what to do and when to do it. You can improve your child's attention by establishing a regular routine such as getting up in the morning, eating, playtime and bedtime.

Using Visual Support: Children generally respond better to visual stimuli. As parents, you can attract children's attention and improve their focusing skills by using visual supports. You can involve children in activities using colourful and interactive materials, pictures, graphics or visual cues.

Games and activities: Play time! Yes, you heard that right. Games help your child to focus and concentrate. For example, telling a story or solving a puzzle will improve your child's focusing skills. Also, spending time with your child's favourite games will increase their attention. Activities such as puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, memory games can strengthen children's ability to focus.

- Puzzles and jigsaw puzzles direct the child's attention to tasks that require long-term focus. Activities such as piecing together pieces or solving mazes help children maintain attention while strengthening their problem-solving skills.

- Hide and seek supports attention skills as a game that requires the child's attention to both physically move and follow other players. You can create different playgrounds and objects to hide to focus your child's attention.

- Name games direct the child's attention both auditorily and verbally. Games such as "Who is it?" or "Name something that starts with the same letter as me" can improve the child's ability to remember and verbalise things.

- Matching and sorting games focus the child's attention on recognising, sorting or categorising similar items. For example, games such as sorting objects by colour or matching shapes can strengthen a child's attention and mental organisation skills.

Limited Stimuli: It is important to avoid environments with a large number of stimuli that can distract children. Limiting the use of television, computers or other electronic devices and providing a quiet and organised working environment can help children to focus their attention. Don't we sometimes feel as if there is too much going on everywhere? Your child may experience the same feeling. So take care to keep the work or play area calm and organised. Reduce unnecessary noise, keep a tidy desk and organise the room. This will help your child to focus better without distractions.

Setting Concrete Goals: Setting concrete goals for children makes it easier for them to focus their attention. For example, you can motivate children by setting goals such as playing a game or participating in an activity after they finish their homework. In this way, children can strengthen their attention skills by focusing on a specific goal. However, it is important not to do this too often and to strike a balance so that the child does not become conditioned to a reward after fulfilling his/her responsibilities.

Recognise Learning Styles: Every child has a different learning style. Parents, understanding the learning style of their children and using appropriate methods can help improve attention skills. For children who are visual learners, methods such as providing visual supports, for children who are auditory learners, methods such as talking or repeating can be used.

Modelling: Parents should model being attentive to their children. Focusing their own attention, showing patience and perseverance towards tasks sets a good example for children. Playing games or participating in activities with your children is also important at this point to help them develop their attention skills.

What should parents do in the process of attention development in children?

Parental attitudes are an important factor affecting attention development in children. Parents' attitudes towards their children can be effective on the formation and development of children's attention skills.

A supportive and caring attitude: When parents show a supportive and caring attitude towards their children's attention, it can help children develop attention skills. When parents participate in their children's interests, listen to them and support their interests, it can strengthen children's ability to focus and sustain their attention.

Be passionate and exemplary: When parents are passionately involved in their own interests and activities, children can learn to focus their attention. Parents demonstrating their own attention skills and setting an example for children can help children develop their attention.

Providing boundaries and structure: Parents providing boundaries and structure for their children can help children develop the ability to manage and control their attention. Learning to sustain their attention over a period of time can improve children's ability to focus.

Positive reinforcement: Parents providing positive reinforcement to their children can encourage the development of attention skills. For example, when children sustain their attention on a particular activity or successfully complete a task, parents' praise and encouragement can help children better manage their attention.

Indifference or excessive pressure: When parents show a disinterested or overly repressive attitude, it can negatively affect children's attention development. An indifferent parental attitude can make it difficult for children to focus their attention. An overly oppressive attitude, on the other hand, can cause stress and anxiety in children and lead to attention problems.

Improving children's attention skills is an important task for parents. Establishing routines, using visual support, organising games and activities, providing limited stimuli, setting concrete goals and recognising the child's learning style help to strengthen attention skills. Activities such as memory games, puzzles, hide-and-seek, name games, matching and sorting games, reading books and storytelling help children focus their attention and improve their concentration skills. Since every child is different, it is important to discover and support games that are suitable for your child's interests. Attention development in children is actually a fun and enjoyable process. Games, routines and a calm environment help your child develop attention. Remember, each child's attention span can be different, so be patient and continue to support them. By following these suggestions to improve your child's attention skills, you can contribute to their healthy attention development.


Börekçi, B. (2017). Evaluation of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in preschool children in relation to behavioural and social problems, family functioning and parental attitudes (Master's thesis, Işık University).

Hoyer, R. S., Elshafei, H., Hemmerlin, J., Bouet, R., & Bidet-Caulet, A. (2021). Why are children so distractible? Development of attention and motor control from childhood to adulthood. Child development, 92(4), e716-e737.
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