Attention and Attention Spans in Young Children

Don't miss out on learning what attention spans in young children are, as they're very important for their correct development.
Attention and Attention Spans in Young Children

Last update: 07 September, 2021

One of the most important keys to success in school is to have a well-developed attention span. For this, it’s important to understand what attention and attention lapses in children are. This way, you’ll be able to help your little ones more and better with their concentration and attention spans, which are necessary for their educational and personal development.

Children can sometimes have difficulty concentrating in class, which can cause them to miss learning opportunities and not be able to keep up with their classmates.

It can be difficult to solve a concentration problem when a child is already 8 or 9 years old. The best time to work on this skill is during the early years when you, as a parent, can actively develop their concentration and attention span.

What does an attention span refer to?

Attention span or concentration is the ability of a child to pay full attention to a specific task. It requires blocking out all other stimuli, such as sound (the class next door is making noise), images (seeing what’s happening on the other side of the window), or unnecessary information (irrelevant writing on the blackboard).

A father coloring on the floor with his son and daughter.

During the school day, little ones need to repeatedly concentrate on different tasks, in an environment that can be very stimulating for some.

So, monitor your child’s ability to concentrate during their preschool years and make sure it increases slowly over time. School will become extremely difficult and exhausting for a child who has difficulty concentrating.

As with all other skills, it’s easier to develop in the preschool years than later in life. In this sense, it’s essential to help children practice attention span through play and fun.

What’s the average attention span of a preschooler?

The average attention and concentration span for a preschooler is usually less than 15 minutes. That is, 15 minutes purely focused on a task. For younger preschoolers, it’s 5 minutes. As they get older, they can concentrate for longer. Generally, half an hour is appropriate in the early grades.

If you’re concerned about your child’s ability to concentrate, you first need to ask yourself if you’re expecting them to concentrate for a manageable period of time. It’s much more effective to work on short tasks and provide frequent breaks than to try to sit for an hour with a 4-year-old.

A great way to refocus your child during an activity is to try taking quick mental breaks, such as mindfulness or yoga activities, which will allow them to relax their body and mind at the same time.

Children’s days at school are structured in a particular way. They’re taught in short time lapses with regular changes in the types of activities.

Quick exercises to improve attention spans in children

Below, we’re going to explain some exercises that will be good for you to do with your children to improve their attention spans. They’re quick to do and easy to remember. The kids will have a great time and you only have to give them small instructions. And if you do them with them, then it’s even better!

Sitting exercises

  • Sit with your legs straight in front of your kids.
  • Shake your knees and then your feet.
  • Bend over and hold your toes.
  • Stretch your toes forward.
  • Stretch your toes backward.

Standing Exercises to Improve Attention Spans

  • Move your arms up and down at your sides, like a flying bird.
  • Shrug your shoulders. Shrug one shoulder at a time, forward and then backward. Then, shrug both shoulders together, forward and then backward.
  • Swing your arms back and forth.
  • Swing your arms sideways like a windmill. Make small rotations first, then wider rotations. Start with one arm at a time and then both arms at the same time.
A father snuggling on the floor with his son and, behind them, a mother snuggling with her daughter.

Walking exercises

  • Walk backward with small steps, then large steps.
  • Walk sideways, first to the right, then to the left.
  • Imagine you’re walking on a rope. Go in a straight line.

Balance exercises

  • Stand on one leg. Count to 5, then switch and stand on the other leg.
  • Stand on the tips of your toes. When you’re balanced, close your eyes and stand on your toes.
  • Again, stand on the tips of your toes and walk around the room.
  • Jump with your feet together and then one foot at a time.

Lying down exercises to improve attention lapses

  • Pretend to be a ball. Hold your knees tightly. Pretend to be a ball and rock backward, forward, and around.
  • Slide seal. Lie on your stomach. Stretch your arms and legs by holding your feet. Then, keep your legs bent and stretch your arms out to the sides, and lift your body off the floor. Walk your hands forward, dragging your legs.
  • Flying plane. Lie on your stomach. Raise your arms up and hold them in the air like an airplane. Then, move your arms up and down.

Now that you have a better understanding of attention in young children, you can help your little ones improve their attention spans while having fun with the activities and exercises we’ve suggested. What are you waiting for to put them into practice?

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  • Bilbao, A. (2015) El cerebro del niño explicado a los padres. Editorial: Plataforma Actual.