What is a normal attention span in toddlers and preschoolers? A while ago I found an article from day2daparenting.com that gave a nice, specific details age by age. There were no specific references, and I was hesitant to share it at first. I dug a bit deeper and found studies (Gaertner et al., 2008; Conejero and Rueda, 2017) that aligned nicely with the information in this article, so I am sharing it here:
Average Attention Span By Age Group:
8 – 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.
16 – 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.
20 – 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.
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.
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.
Children typically can attend to one activity that is of interest to them for around 10-15 minutes at a time and should generally be able to filter out small distractions occurring simultaneously in the environment. They may only be able to attend to an assigned classroom activity for only 5-10 minutes particularly if they find it uninteresting or difficult for them and do not have adult guidance to stay on task. Small groups of children may be able to play together for 15 minutes or up to a 1/2 hour if they are engaged in novel, interesting play activities.