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What is a normal attention span for a toddler

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Your question:
I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter. She has very good verbal skills and can express almost everything. She does follow directions. But she cannot sit in one place and complete a task before she wants to take another one. So I guess she still needs to develop her attention span. IS this normal for a 2 1/2 year old? Also how can I train her to concentrate on something she is doing. I want to train her to send her to preschool from January of next year, by then she would be 2 years and 10 months.

The expert answers:
Personally, despite the reputation two year olds have for being incredibly self-centered and energetic, I find two-and-a-half year olds totally delightful. They are beginning to be able to know what they want, are curious about everything, and can’t wait until the next exciting event or fascinating experience. They love to share their excitement and enthusiasm, still love to snuggle and be affectionate, yet are beginning to be able to be a bit more independent, giving you an occasional break.

A highly verbal toddler who is well able to follow directions can be especially enjoyable. However, I have the feeling that your daughter’s precociousness has led you to believe that her limited attention span is a problem, or somehow out of sync with her intelligence. It sounds to me like you have a charming and bright little girl who’s attention span, although a bit shorter than you’d like, may be perfectly normal.

Most two and a half year olds are so interested in the entire world that sitting in one place for an extended period just doesn’t seem sensible to them. Two year olds are notoriously self-directed. They may sit for a long time if they are totally engaged in something that has great appeal to them, but they don’t yet have the physical ability or emotional need to please others enough to keep them involved once their interest flags. Nor should they.

Please don’t worry about your daughter’s attention span. If she is able to follow directions and communicate well already, chances are good that what seems like a limited ability to finish a task to you is a completely normal toddler’s version of meeting life’s challenges. She will be required to sit still for much of her life, and preschoolers are supposed to be active.

And don’t worry about whether or not she will be ready for preschool next January. She will be three months older by then, and besides, preschool is intended to encourage children to learn when they must sit, concentrate and finish tasks, and when they may play and flit from intriguing activity to activity as their own personal whim dictates.

Ideally, your preschool staff will be well able to help you assess whether your daughter’s attention span is indeed normal, and will give her lots of opportunities to explore, learn and have fun. That’s why you send her to preschool!

So, try to enjoy her ability to express herself, and be accepting of her as she is. This is just the beginning of your daughter asserting her own interests and personality, and you will both be better off if you can embrace her talents and accept what to you seem to be her less desirable traits. She needs you to love her just a she is, at whatever rate she develops, and trying to push a toddler to sit still for too long will only frustrate you both.

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