If you have unrealistic expectations of your child’s attention span, it can often lead to temper tantrums and other upsetting behavior.
Keep in mind that whether or not your child likes the actual activity, or is sick, tired, or hungry can affect his/her attention span. Here are some guidelines to help you understand the typical lengths of attending behaviors in young children:
Ages 8 months – 15 months
Any new activity or event will distract your child, but they can usually attend for one minute or a little longer to a single toy or activity.
Ages 16 months – 19 months
Your child might be restless, but is able to sustain attention to one structured activity for 2-3 minutes. Your child might not be able to tolerate verbal or visual interference.
Ages 20 month – 24 months
Your child is still easily distracted by sounds, but can stay attentive to an activity either with or without an adult for 3-6 minutes.
Age 25 – 36 months
Your child can generally pay attention to a toy or other activity for 5-8 minutes. In addition, he/she can shift attention from an adult speaking to him/her and then back to what he/she was doing if he/she is prompted to focus her attention.
Ages 3 – 4 years
Your child can usually attend to an activity for 8-10 minutes, and then alternate his/her total attention between the adult talking to him/her and the activity he/she is doing independently.