Focused Attention

The ability to maintain focus on a task and resist distractions is important for a child’s cognitive development. Apart from making care giving easier, longer attention spans are linked to better communication, problem solving, and test taking skills. So what’s considered normal? And what can parents do to improve their child’s attention span? Check out this week’s articles:



Focused attention (as compared to automatic attention processes) typically develops at the end of the first year of life and improves drastically throughout the first four years. A reciprocal correlation has been discovered between emotionality and attention span. Negative emotions can distract attention. Higher attending ability can allow a child to override negative emotions and maintain focus.

“Positive affect and affirmative evaluations during play may stimulate children’s interest in a task or refocus waning attention, as well as create a positive environment that increases enjoyment of such efforts.”

While each child’s attention span will fluctuate depending on the activity, focused attention naturally increases with age. Parents who positively reinforce a toddler’s sustained focus and engagement with the environment can help their attention span to improve. Meanwhile, parents who are overly controlling of their toddler’s actions or interfere extensively during play may have a detrimental effect on the child’s attention span.

“Children who become accustomed to continual parental control of their actions and experiences may become less motivated or able to follow their natural interest in engaging with the environment and, in turn, may exhibit deficits in their ability to initiate or sustain attention.”

Concern over whether a child is reaching age-appropriate mental, emotional, and physical milestones throughout their life is only natural for parents. Anecdotally, we have seen the attention spans of many Bloomers improve drastically (seemingly overnight) and many others improve steadily week to week. Some toddlers feel the need to take breaks from class to run around the room, only to realize that the fun is happening back in the group. Some children will sit idly watching or even staring into space for weeks or months in class before deciding to one day to get up and participate in every exercise. The process of growth and building focus is highly individual but always a beautiful thing to watch.


Gaertner, Bridget; Spinrad, Tracy; Eisenberg, Nancy. (December 2008). Focused Attention in Toddlers.

Day2Day Parenting (November 2013). Toddler Attention Span: How Long Should They Be Able to Focus?