Children's attention spans are naturally shorter than adult attention spans, and it generally is considered important for parents and teachers to play an active role in helping to improve children's ability to pay attention. A variety of factors can affect children's attention spans. A child's upbringing, proper food and rest, and impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can all affect a young person's ability to pay attention.
One way to improve on children's attention skills is for parents to work with their sons and daughters at home. Parents can slowly expose their children to situations in which they need to pay attention. Adults can teach kids from a young age that it is rude to fidget, make noise or engage in other distracting behavior when a person is speaking. Teachers also can help with the mission to make children more attentive by making their lessons kid-friendly. Younger children especially are more likely to pay attention to an interactive lesson that utilizes pictures and objects over a longer, lecture-type lesson.
Children's attention spans also can be impacted by their daily routines and diets. Eating too many sweets can make a child hyper and less likely to want to sit still and pay attention. A parent who is struggling with a child who will not pay attention should try replacing the child's processed, sugar-filled treats with healthier snacks such as sliced fruit or celery sticks. It also is vital for children to get enough sleep at night. A child who does not get proper rest likely will be cranky and lethargic the next day, which can impact his ability to pay attention.
Some children cannot pay attention no matter how hard they try, usually because of a medical disorder. A child who struggles in school, appears constantly distracted, does not seem to be learning at the same pace as his peers and cannot seem to stay in his seat may need to be evaluated for ADHD, a common medical issue. Once a psychiatrist diagnoses a child with ADHD, he can begin treatment that will help to improve his attention span.
Methylphenidate medications are available to help suppress symptoms in people suffering from ADHD. Behavior modifications are another step in treating ADHD, because medication alone does not always solve children's attention span problems. Some children may need a specialized learning environment or a one-on-one helper to be able to handle their schoolwork. Talk therapy counseling sessions also can be beneficial for a child with ADHD.