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Many young children have a short attention span, and those with communication needs may have particular problems with concentration. A good attention span is needed before a child can begin to understand language. Work on attention aims to extend the time a child is able to concentrate on one activity.

  • It is helpful to remove distractions – try and have some quiet time without the TV, radio or music. 

  • Saying your child’s name before you start talking to them will help to gain their attention.

  • Initially allow your child to lead the game. Offer them toys but follow what they’re doing, playing alongside them and commenting on what they do, rather than asking lots of questions – e.g., ‘Wow! Your car is going really fast!’, ‘I’m brushing dolly’s hair too!’.

  • Next, encourage the child to join in with you. Choosing toys that your child is interested in will help maintain their attention.

Songs and stories

Songs and rhymes:

  • Singing rhymes and songs can be used to increase your child’s length of concentration


Listening to Short Stories:

  • Choose books that are only a few pages long, and gradually increase this as your child is able to concentrate for longer.

  • Books that have lots of bright, colourful pictures or pop up/flaps are good for maintaining a child’s interest.

Nesting Barrels

The following ideas show how just one toy can be used in many different ways in order to prolong your child’s interest and attention:

  • Use them for counting and matching colours

  • Build towers in different ways

  • Roll them to each other

  • Hide things in them or under them

  • Play with barrels in the bath, fill them with water or float them

  • Use them to make sandcastles


Remember to praise your child for doing ‘good looking’, ‘good finding’ or ‘good playing’ to boost their confidence and encourage them to focus!

Using play dough

You may need to swap what activity you are doing (2-3 minutes on each task), but see if you can encourage your child to play with the dough for longer length time each time you get it out as all the little seconds and  minutes will soon add to one bigger chunk of time!

Here’s some different ideas to try to maintain your child’s attention whilst using playdough:

  • Roll it out and cut out shapes with pastry cutters

  • Make shapes such as balls and worms

  • Make animals models such as snakes, cats and snails

  • Make food models such as cakes, sausages, peas, spaghetti and meatballs

  • Talk about the colour play dough you are using

  • Talk about the shape and size of the things you are making together

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