How to increase a toddler's attention span

Written by laura wilson
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How to increase a toddler's attention span
Toddlers are often on the move, which can frustrate parents. (toddlers playing in flower garden image by Linda Stockdale from

Toddlers are notorious for having a strong will and a short attention span, which can make for some challenging moments for parents. Adults need to accomplish some tasks around the house while the little ones are playing, so many parents desire to increase their toddler's attention span. There are some simple steps parents can follow to help their toddler focus for a longer period of time.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Large storage box
  • Closet for storing toys
  • Short, simple books
  • Simple toys such as blocks and nesting cups

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  1. 1

    Remove half of the toddler's toys from the play area. Parents often assume more toys will keep a toddler occupied for a longer period of time, but they often overwhelm a toddler and provide a continual distraction from focusing on one activity. Place half of the toys in plastic storage boxes and put them away in a closet.

    How to increase a toddler's attention span
    Too many toys can increase distraction in a toddler. (toy trucks image by timur1970 from
  2. 2

    Once a week, rotate toys. Take the toys that had been in the storage boxes out and place the ones that were in the play area in the closet for that week. Not only will there be less toys to overwhelm the toddler, but since he has not seen those toys in awhile, his interest will be higher and he will play with them longer.

    How to increase a toddler's attention span
    Toddlers will find ttoys that have put in storage for a bit new and interesting. (box image by Bartlomiej Nowak from
  3. 3

    Read to toddlers. For some parents this can be a frustrating activity, because many toddlers will resist sitting for even a minute. But parents who arm themselves with a library of short, colourful books and keep trying to read will eventually find that the effort pays off. Little Ones Reading Resource in "Average Attention Span in Children" states that a child's ability to concentrate and focus on the story will increase over time as parents make this a regular activity.

    How to increase a toddler's attention span
    Reading to toddlers can increase their attention span. (grandfather read book with children image by Pavel Losevsky from
  4. 4

    Choose simple, classic toys over electronics. The toys with all the sounds and lights may seem like a better choice, but toddlers are all about cause and effect. Once they figure out that pushing a certain button will make a honking noise, and another will make a red light flash, they will have conquered the toy and will not spend much time on it. Simple toys such as blocks, nesting cups, stacking rings, shape sorters, and soft balls are choices that can be used over and over again in a variety of ways and will keep their attention.

    How to increase a toddler's attention span
    Simple, open-ended toys such as blocks will amuse toddlers longer. (abc blocks image by Erin Cadigan from
  5. 5

    Limit television viewing time. While it is tempting for parents to turn on a show whenever they need to get something accomplished, this can have a negative effect on her attention span. A study published in Pediatrics entitled "Early Television Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems in Children" concluded that watching television at an early age did correlate with attention problems, and that parents should limit viewing sessions.

    How to increase a toddler's attention span
    Limit tv time to avoid attention problems. (tv control and tv 3 image by chrisharvey from

Tips and warnings

  • Parents can often encourage toddlers to play with a specific toy for a longer time by modelling how to play with it. For instance, get down on the floor and show the toddler how to play with blocks. Stack them up as high as you can, or put them in a line and make a road for a car. Pretend they are cookies and feed them to a baby doll, or sort them by colour or size. Once a child sees the variety of activities that can be done with these toys, she will be able to do them herself the next time.
  • According to Early Intervention Support in "Behavior Tips: Attention Span" a two year old can attend to an activity for only three to six minutes, and by three years old that increases to about 8 minutes, so try not to have unrealistic expectations for what a toddler can do at this developmental stage.

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