Ahhhh ‘how do I get my toddler to concentrate?’ must be one of the most common questions in my inbox! So if you’re curious, please feel reassured you’re not the only one!!
Right, something we need to address from the start...toddlers CAN concentrate! However, it’s just in short bursts of time. Sitting still in a WHOLE other topic!! Toddlers can be active and still concentrate.
We need to ensure our expectations of our toddlers is realistic! On average, they say (the clever professionals) say that the AVERAGE child can concentrate for 3 to 5 minutes for every year of their life. Please take that as a rough guidance and not golden but it does give us a rough idea of what to expect. I know once many parents hear this they often say ‘Ahhhhh!’ as they realise their toddler can concentrate and is inline with what is expected of them. Now that we know what to expect from our darling toddlers, we can build on that to help them develop their concentration.
The ability to concentrate is a skill. We need to teach our children to concentrate, we must praise them when they concentrate for blocks of time and we must also create an environment that encourages your child to concentrate (easier said than done!)
Children and adults are able to concentrate when they have all of their basic needs met. They need to have slept, eaten and feel safe. So considering this I always find that young children are able to concentrate best when they have first woken and had something to eat...so after breakfast or after their afternoon nap, when they’ve had time to come round! And then the feeling safe comes from you, knowing you are near so this links to encouraging your child to play independently. We have another blog post on this, click here for encourage independent play.
Once our child’s needs have been met, we need to consider the following ideas for encouraging our kids to play:
• Children are more likely to concentrate if their activity is something that they are interested in and sparks their desire to want to play so ensure the task in hand is age appropriate and considers their interests
• Offer a small amount of toys. Too many toys can be overwhelming and make the decision of what to play much harder. Therefore by offering less, they are more likely to play with what they have in a more imaginative way
• Does your child have access to their toys or do they need your assurance to get to them? Now I’m not talking about ALL toys, I mean we’ve all hidden the glue and glitter let’s be honest. But by having instant access to toys and books means your child is able to choose their play without your assistance which encourages them to be independent but also prevents them from losing their concentration when in the depths of play
• Keep distractions to a minimum! I know it’s not always easy to have a quiet house but when you can, get into the habit of turning off the tv when your child is playing. All you need is for a familiar theme tune or advert to play on the tv, and your child will have broken their trail of thought making it hard to return to what they were doing.
• Keep your questions to a minimum! We’re all guilty of bombarding young children with a lot of questions...what’s this? What are you doing? What shall we play? Etc. We mean well (I’m including well meaning grandparents in this too!!) but sometimes this can be a little off putting to a young child who wants to concentrate on their play. If you are playing with your little one, be aware of how many questions you’re asking, but it’s much easier said than done!
• Finally when you do notice your child deep in concentration, sit back and watch. As we read earlier, we know it’s only going to be for a short space of time so try to wait until you notice they have broken concentrate and then pile on the praise!! Tell them how well they did, what an achievement it was and how proud you are! This shows them that you value their play and ability to concentrate!
Before we finish, it might be worth chatting to family members or friends who spend a lot of time with your child that you are trying to teach your child to concentrate. If you are all working towards the same goal, it will make a huge difference! If anyone spots your child sat playing independently and deep in concentrate, leave them, let them concentrate...it’s a big deal!!
I really hope that helps!