When your young child moves from one toy to the next, without stopping to play by themselves or play for more than 10 minutes, it gets exhausting. It can be even more exhausting when you find yourself with a huge mess on your hands, because your child never cleaned up activity A to get to activity B.
Alas… the life of a parent with young kids.
I work as a play therapist
, so I am with young children all day long and I see how their attention spans vary. Some children will play with a toy for 30 minutes, while others only play for 30 seconds before becoming bored and moving on. Some children are very neat and others are very messy. It is important to help your child grow their attention span
to what is considered appropriate for their age.
Here are a few tips to help:
1. Be patient
while your child learns her interests. Go to the library and pick out some books. Read them and put them back (yes, right in the library). Go home and act out the books with toys.
2. Only have two to three toys out at a time, eliminating the option to move to an unlimited number of activities. Clean up together afterwards.
3. Interact and play with her to teach her how to play. She may not know how to move past surface playing into a deeper type of play that requires more thought and attention (role playing, imaginative play).
4. Try to reduce screen time
. Your child can get used to the fast-moving objects and will soon expect everything to be fast, not wanting to sit down and be patient.
5. Set up some centers in your home: a sensory box center, a kitchen center, a doll center, a car center. This allows your child to move from area to area. Move with him for the first few weeks, until he learns not to take the toys out of the center.
6. Play with basic toys
instead of electronic toys. Light up toys, toys that sing, etc ¦ all work against you in this area.
7. Try water-play. Fill a bucket or container with water. Let your child bathe their toys or just play with spoons, etc ¦ When we are done, we dump out the water, but keep the spoons, funnel and measuring cup in the bucket for next time. (Organizing made easy!)
8. Go outside several times a day. Let your child run around and burn some of that energy.
9. Suggest small chores. It might be that they are cleaning up the toys in the back yard or helping to clean up shoes. You are using this opportunity to teach him how to do them appropriately. (don’t overly correct)
10. Make a playlist of your favorite songs and dance with your child. You can even clean up while you dance.
12. Get your child interested in your activities.
13. Play with bubbles. There are many ways to play with bubbles, to keep your child interested longer.
14. If your child is young, don’t expect too much.
15 Put a few toys within reach, but put the rest out of reach. Rotate them weekly.
16. Work on puzzles together. Puzzles are great for increasing attention spans. Plus- you clean them up by completing them, so it is a win-win!
17. Have her teach YOU how to play! Teaching someone else is a great way to learn. (Remind her to ask you what to do with your toys now that you are done!) Have her teach you how to put things away when you are done…
19. Reward your child, with praise, for sticking with an activity longer and cleaning up afterwards. That behavior will likely be repeated.
21. Try taking a break from prepared activities to teach her how to play. Be the role model and sit on the floor playing, too.
22. Go to the library for the free mommy & me classes or join on at a gym or facility. Mess free, fun bonding time and they are learning.
23. Try fun activities like pretend tea party or pretend birthday party (do the whole thing: pour the pretend tea/drink, have pretend cake, etc ¦)
24. Try a sport. Swimming or swimming lessons, etc ¦
25. Try talking to your child. Explaining that you want him to only play with one toy for a few minutes and when he is finished and has cleaned up completely, he can move onto something else.
We just finished this Declutter Challenge! Have you tried it?
Continue to work with (and play with) your child on a daily basis, as it will not only help, but also form an unbreakable bond. Read to them, spend time with them and just enjoy being with them. Check out more tips like this on our Facebook Page.