Parents, here’s what you need to know about your child’s attention span according to research.
What can you read in this article?
- How a parent’s action affect a child’s attention span, according to research
- Child’s attention span chart
- How to improve the attention span of a child
Are you guilty of not paying much attention to your child? Are you the type who immediately looks on your phone once your child is preoccupied with something? Or are you the complete opposite, the type who takes over your child’s playtime entirely, planning all her activities down to a T?
If you are either of the two, you might want to rethink how you interact with your child. Because according to research, being too distracted or being too involved in your child’s playtime might have an effect on his attention span.
Parent’s interaction may affect your child’s attention span of your child, research says
In a new study conducted at Indiana University, Dr. Chen Yu and Dr. Linda Smith were able to find the first direct link between a child’s attention span and that of their parents.
The study, which was published in the journal Current Biology, was meant to prove that parents who are constantly checking their phones (or get easily distracted by outside stimuli) while playing with their children are affecting their children’s attention span.
In order to conduct the study with the most natural results, parents weren’t told what they were being studied for. All that the 36 parents were asked to do was wear a head-mounted camera.
From there, researchers could observe how parents played with and engaged their children (babies aged one to one-and-a-half) with toys, also how often the parents got distracted or checked their phones. In addition, researchers observed how their parents’ behavior affected the child’s eye movement and general attention.
“The ability of children to sustain attention is known as a strong indicator for later success in areas such as language acquisition, problem-solving and other key cognitive development milestones,” said Dr. Yu.
2 mistakes parents make that affect their child’s attention span
The data showed that the longer a parent, and by extension their baby, paid attention to an object or toy while playing, the longer the baby kept paying attention to it. Even after the parents stopped playing, these babies would tend to pay attention to the object. In summation, these babies and parents displayed the best attention spans.
Conversely, the babies whose parents got distracted, stopped playing with the baby, or constantly checked their cellphones displayed worse attention spans. Surprisingly, these distracted parents did not yield the worst results.
Caregivers who appear distracted or whose eyes wander a lot while their children play appear to negatively impact infants’ burgeoning attention spans during a key stage of development.
When you’ve got someone who isn’t responsive to a child’s behavior, it could be a real red flag for future problems,” said Dr. Chen Yu.
The babies that displayed the worst attention spans were those whose parents tried to overly engage the children. Parents who held toys out to their baby, tried to give names, or draw attention to a specific toy yielded the worst results with their babies. Evidently, it’s better to let your baby take lead while playing.
“Because sustained attention matters to school success, this influence provides a way to understand individual differences in sustained attention and to potentially influence its development,” he added.
While there is a lot to learn from the interaction between parents and their babies in terms of attention span, one thing can be noted from the study: don’t try to overcompensate!
“Parents who had more success were those who let their children take the lead. These caregivers waited until they saw the children express interest in a toy and then jumped in to expand that interest by naming the object and encouraging play,” says Yu.
The research, in terms of numbers, is quite clear. Parents (and their babies) who were attentive to one specific object for 3.6 seconds offered some pretty staggering numbers. The babies of these parents continued to lend their attention to the same object for an additional 2.6 seconds on average. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly 4x longer than the other babies.
It’s clear that properly playing with your children at a young age can lead to stronger attention spans and other benefits in terms of learning. Dr. Linda Smith says,
“This effect, day in and day out in an infant’s life, may be the source of strong skills in sustained attention and concentration.”
Cellphone-distracted parenting can hinder your child’s brain development, says study
Ito ang epekto sa iyong anak kapag ikaw ay isang distracted parent
Is your child easily distracted? Here are 9 tips to help him focus
How long is the normal attention span for your child’s age?
Attention span refers to the time a person can focus on a given task or activity before he loses focus or interest. The said study is important for parents to know, because a longer attention span means that your child will be able to focus and learn more from a task or a lesson.
The length of your child’s attention span has a direct impact on his studies, relationships and day-to-day life.
So, how do you know if your child’s attention span is normal for his age, or if he has a problem?
According to experts, a healthy and normal attention span for a child can be generalized into the general rule of 2 minutes for every year of age. For instance, when your child is one-year-old, expect his attention span to be short, around 2 minutes on a given task and he will be distracted. The length doubles when he turns 2, and two minutes add for every year.
Here’s the average attention span of a child according to age, from the website of Brain Balance Center:
- 2 years old: four to six minutes
- 4 years old: eight to 12 minutes
- 6 years old: 12 to 18 minutes
- 8 years old: 16 to 24 minutes
- 10 years old: 20 to 30 minutes
- 12 years old: 24 to 36 minutes
- 14 years old: 28 to 42 minutes
- 16 years old: 32 to 48 minutes
However, it is important to note that other factors may affect your child’s attention span. For instance, her ability to focus on a task may be affected by the distractions around her such as noise or other toys, mood disorders, learning disabilities as well as physiological factors like if the child is tired, sleepy or hungry.
How to improve your child’s attention span
So, is there a way to naturally improve your child’s attention span and ability to focus? Here are some ways that you can try:
Try to set up your child’s learning area in a place away from other things that might catch his attention like his toys or the television. Also make his study corner as clutter-free and conducive to learning as possible.
Keep instructions short and simple
For young children, it can be hard for them to listen, remember and follow complicated instructions, so it’s better to break it down to one or two steps and follow through before giving another one.
Teach your child about mindfulness
Research shows that mindfulness exercises can improve a child’s memory and attention span. So teach him to take slow, deep breaths before a class or a test.
Different studies revealed that screen time has a negative impact on a child’s cognitive development and attention span. So if you want your child to have a better concentration, it is best for you to limit their gadget or TV time and possibly have less screen time right before you have to get them to pay full attention to something.
If they must have some screen time, try to make it an interactive activity so that they have to think and figure things out and participate physically and something that’s happening.
Pay attention to your child
As revealed in the study above, how you interact with your child plays a role in his ability to concentrate. So if he asks you to play with him, put your phone aside, resist the urge to multitask and spend time to really play. But be careful not to overcompensate. Let your child take the lead. Answer his questions if he has any, but if not, you can just take the cue from him.
Additional information by Camille Eusebio