9 Types of Attention to Reinforce in Children

It's important to analyze which types of attention our children have difficulties with in order to provide them with the right support. Keep reading to find out more.
9 Types of Attention to Reinforce in Children
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Children who are very easily distracted may worry their parents, because attention issues prevent them from focusing on certain tasks. This can lead to poor school performance, as these children have a hard time paying attention and staying focused on their schoolwork. In the following article, we’re going to discover the different types of attention that exist.

We’ll also see what you should work on if your child is absentminded or very easily distracted. Don’t miss it!

Types of attention to identify in children

One of the most difficult functions that our brain carries out is the attention process. Below, we’re going to look at the different types of attention that exist, as well as how they can be combined. Knowing this, we can help children depending on the area they need it most.

Divided attention

When we talk about divided attention, we’re referring to the brain’s ability to pay attention to several stimuli or tasks at the same time, thus responding to various demands of the environment. For example, copying from the blackboard while listening to the teacher.

9 Types of Attention to Reinforce in Children

Alternating attention

Alternating attention refers to the capacity we have to change our attentional focus from one task or stimulus to another. And, moreover, to do so easily. For example, while doing homework, someone calls us to ask us something. We take the call and, when finished, we continue with our task with ease.

Selective attention

Also called focused attention, we refer to this when we’re able to focus our mind on a precise task or stimulus, even when other environmental stimuli are present. For example, reading a story.

Sustained attention

Sustained attention is the ability to maintain attention over a period of time. For example, when we study, we pay attention for a long period of time on our notes.

How does our attention work?

The different types of attention mentioned above aren’t the end of the story. There are more types that can be combined with the other types of attention:

  • Visual and auditory attention: Especially when we take into account the sensory modality.
  • Open attention: We focus on the source of attention.
  • Covert attention: We’re doing something, but our attention is on something else. These two types of attention occur mostly in the motor domain.
  • Voluntary: We consciously direct our attention to something.
  • Involuntary: We don’t consciously direct our attention. These last two types of attention occur if we focus on the attitude of the person.

Now that we’ve covered some of the types of attention that can occur and how they combine, it should also be noted that the ability to pay attention develops as children grow up. In addition, attention also depends on other factors such as motivation, the environment, how the child works, etc.

Types of attention to reinforce if children are very easily distracted

We’ve already seen the different types of attention, because it’s not so easy to talk about attention if we don’t know which one we’re referring to. Normally, when parents worry about their very easily distracted children, we focus mainly on their sustained and selective attention, without realizing that the other types of attention are also important, such as alternating attention.

Let’s look at an example: It’s not effective to focus on a text if we can’t read it and do work on that text at the same time. Efforts should be made to improve this lack of flexibility, because it can be very problematic when we want to do tasks such as an academic essay.

Another type of attention that’s very important, apart from sustained and selective attention, is divided attention, as it’s necessary for our day-to-day life. Without divided attention, we wouldn’t be able to prepare a glass of milk and toast at the same time.

9 Types of Attention to Reinforce in Children

For this reason, all types of attention are important and need to be worked on in children who are easily distracted. Even so, it’s true that, although sustained and selective attention are the easiest to identify for parents who are concerned about their child’s distractions, the reality is that all of them need to be worked on.

About the types of attention to work on in children who are easily distracted…

As we’ve already seen, there are many types of attention that exist. In very easily distracted children, it’s important to detect which type of attention they really have difficulties with in order to work on and reinforce them.

With the information we now have, we can identify our children’s attention problems and work on them with different activities. We can also contact a professional if we’re not able to solve this difficulty, so that they can guide us on how to address and improve it.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Estévez-González, A., García-Sánchez, C., & Junqué, C. (1997). La atención: una compleja función cerebral. Revista de neurología, 25(148), 1989-1997.
  • Soprano, A. M. (2009). Cómo evaluar la atención y las funciones ejecutivas en los niños y adolescentes. Paidós.
  • Villarroig Claramonte, L. (2018). La atención: principales rasgos, tipos y estudio.
  • Sánchez, A., & Pérez, H. (2008). Tipos de atención. Atención en el niño.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.