What Is the Normal Attention Span of Kids at Various Age Levels?

Attention span of children is the total time that a child applies to any task at hand. Less attention span will be marked by low concentration and easily distracted mind. Attention span of children increases with age. Normal attention span of a child is 3 to 5 minutes per year of the age. So, a two year old child should be able to concentrate on a task for at least 6 minutes, kindergarten kids should be able to concentrate for 15 minutes and so on. The duration of watching television is not an accurate measure of attention span.

Attention Span of children is limited; it grows and develops with age if handled properly. Children lose focus and patience easily and this is truer of the male child, whereas girls have longer attention span. Attention span is determined by the type of programming the brain receives. Attention span of an average child is as long as the age of the child. There is less attention span in younger and toddler kids in comparison to the older children. The attention span is more while performing tasks which match their abilities and interests.

Kids with poor attention span generally give over attention to irrelevant details of tasks, have overactive imagination that detract them from their main task and have difficulty in remembering verbal directions although their intelligence level might be normal. The kids activities may also have symptoms like restlessness, impulsiveness and they always seem to be in a hurry. They jump from one task to the other in quick succession. These children are more often than not disruptive, aggressive and are characterized by immaturity. They might also have poor self control, low self esteem and lack of confidence. They find it difficult to express themselves or speak out their problems to parents, teachers or elders. Parents have to use too many physical punishments to organize them; they repeatedly meet with accidents, can not make friends and are often suspended or expelled from school.

These children can be taught to be more in control of their minds if they start performing Yoga exercises. Attention span can be increased and awareness and concentration levels can be heightened even in preschool kids, if they regularly do Yoga. Their hyperactivity can be diverted into constructive channels and they can learn to be patient and focused with the help of various Yoga forms.

Attention span is such a common word and is tossed around so frequently that we hardly really understand what it really means. An attention span is essentially the amount of time for which a person can concentrate on a task at hand without getting distracted in any manner. Most of the educators of the world agree that attention span in children has a strong relation to their academic and personal achievements. Focusing attention is a crucial trait, one which cannot be done without. There is no exact normal attention span in children. Kids' attention spans are highly variable, and it completely depends on the definition and the intent with which the word 'attention' is used. There are two basic kinds of attention: focused and sustained. When you talk of improving attention span, it is important to know which attention span you are talking about.

Focused attention is a short-term attention, which is also characterized as a response to stimuli. If there is an event or an incident which attracts attention for a short period, a child may be completely absorbed in this event. For instance, if there is a flying multicolored balloon which catches the child's attention, the short attention that the child pays to it is completely focused on the object itself. The attention span is brief and lasts not more than 20 seconds. Scientifically, focused attention can range from 8 seconds to 20 seconds. Almost always, focused attention is drawn by an unexpected event. Soon after the focused attention ceases, the child may return to what they were doing earlier, or simply think about something else. The average attention span can therefore range from 8 to 20 seconds.

Sustained attention is the one that offers consistent focus on a task. If a child is given the task to color a picture, the child will maintain continued attention towards the task at hand till it is finished, in normal circumstances. However, it is also possible that the child may lose focus and stop coloring the picturing half way through, to focus attention on something else, like playing with a ball. Adults are known to have sustained attention of not more than 20 minutes at a time. The reason most of us continue to perform a particular task is that we increase attention span by refocusing on the same thing again and again, till the task at hand is complete.

A short attention span in children can be due to many different causes. It is not necessary for a child with a short attention span to be necessarily suffering from a disorder. Attention span disorder, though real, is very rare. Kids are easily distracted because they do not have the ability or the strong will to focus and refocus on certain mundane things. There are many different techniques, like meditation, which can be used to improve the concentration of kids. Since the memory span of kids, especially very young children, is also not completely developed, children may still keep getting distracted. The concentration of kids may be affected by various contributing factors, and therefore, it is important to understand what is distracting your child before taking the child for a therapy session.

Attention span varies greatly from one person to another and also changes with a change in age. The older you get, the more adept you become in practicing sustained attention. As a result, older children are able to give more attention than younger children. For improving attention span in children, children are presented with tasks that have a 'time on task' measurement component. The child is given a task to complete, and then the entire activity is timed. There is an average task time allotted to the task, and the time taken by a particular child to complete the task is compared to this average time. If the child is seen to have a less than average attention span to complete the task, the child is motivated. Most children are able to sustain attention when they find a particular task enjoyable. Enjoyment acts as an intrinsically motivating factor in their lives. When a child is learning a task, they may not be able to sustain attention, but the more fluent they do get in performing the task, the more concentration and attention they show in doing it.

For improving attention span in children, children have to be intrinsically motivated. In order to increase attention span in children, they are engaged in a serious of activities with varying degrees of difficulty. The average attention span for a child is about 15 to 20 minutes. This attention span can be extended slowly. To improve the average attention span for a child, external stimuli are to be kept to a minimum. Other factors such as fatigue, noise, stress, and hunger need to be kept to a minimum. Freely chosen tasks usually command more attention from children than tasks which have been delegated. Since the average attention span of children is not much, focus is on making the child realize that the task is important enough to be repeated several times in a day. Children and their parents are also given many tips that could help the child maintain longer sustained attention, thereby improving the child's all-round performance. Some of these tips are to give a child rest when they lose attention from a topic. Performing a different kind of activity and keeping a variation in these activities will also help children maintain focus and attention.

There are focused attention disabilities, which are normally seen in children who are suffering from ADHD. However, ADHD is a condition that can be treated with medication and sustained therapy. Children suffering from ADHD may have to visit a therapist till they are much older. There are tests that are given to children to ascertain if their therapy is having any benefit. Some of these tests include the Wechsler intelligence scale for children and the DeGangi's test for attention in infants. There is also a slight effect of different temperaments on the test results.