Are you a parent who is passionate about learning? Do you want your children to enjoy school and find success IN and OUT of the classroom?

Then welcome to Learn Their Way!



In this week’s episode, we’ll discuss strengthening attention spans.


The most common concern I hear from parents is that their children can’t sit still, can’t focus, can’t stay on task — at meals, during school or homework time, or when a parent is talking.

It is completely NORMAL for children to have short attention spans. That doesn’t mean we can’t work on it, to build stamina over time. 

In this episode of Learn Their Way, you’ll hear five simple, practical tips for strengthening attention spans at home.




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Quote: We don't expect children to hop on a two-wheeler and ride a mile without any experience. Neither should we expect focus and persistence to come naturally.



Welcome to the Learn Their Way podcast, where we teach strategies designed to help students understand how they learn best and find success in and out of the classroom.

I’m your host, Melissa Droegemueller, and in this episode, we’ll discuss practical tips for helping our children increase their focus and attention spans.


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Well, hello! Welcome to episode five: Strengthening Attention Spans

In last week’s episode, we talked about learning styles and the struggles that arise when a parent and a child have opposite tendencies. 

I once spoke with a mom who was frustrated because she had to remind her preschooler 3 or 4 times to put on her shoes before she finally did it. If I had to guess, chances are good that the mom is an auditory/verbal learner, and her child is not.

Many times, when our kids aren’t doing what we ask, we need to take a step back and look at their intentions. Are they truly being contrary? Are they disobeying us, or are we asking them to do something they CANNOT do? Is there something keeping them from doing what we ask?

When one of my daughters was in Kindergarten, she had very strong auditory skills. She could listen to a song or a rhyme once or twice and sing it or recite it back perfectly. It came naturally to her, and she enjoyed it, which made learning fun for both of us. 

What didn’t come naturally was writing. We struggled with her handwriting books for weeks, never making much progress — and stupid me — I thought she was being stubborn. I never once considered that I was asking her to do something she wasn’t ready for, developmentally.

Let me read you another example, from a blog post I wrote about read aloud activities four years ago.

Our daughter is a tactile/kinesthetic learner. Her body is constantly in motion, and she resists sitting still for a story. She slides down off the couch and plays with anything she can find within reach.

I used to let it bother me. I used to correct her: force her to sit next to me and look at the pictures as I read aloud.

But that’s not who she is–she’s an auditory learner, and she hears every word I say–whether I think she’s paying attention or not. I often find her later, sitting on the couch alone, rereading the book and looking at the pictures at the pace that suits her.

Most of the time she brings out her favorite bristle blocks, school bus, and wooden people. When I’m done reading, I hear her acting out the story I just read with her little characters.

After thinking about it, I realized that I would rather have a quiet, happy child listening to the story than have her grow up despising our read-aloud times because I made her sit on the couch with me.”


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The most common concern I hear from parents is that their children can’t sit still, can’t focus, can’t stay on task — at meals, during school or homework time, or when a parent is talking. 

It is completely NORMAL for children to have short attention spans. That doesn’t mean we can’t work on it, to build stamina over time. 

In our current education system, I notice many adults have really high expectations for children’s attention spans, especially when it comes to homework or homeschooling.

Let’s set the record straight: in most U.S. classrooms, children do not sit at their desks for hours at a time. 

When I was an elementary school teacher, we took frequent breaks to move our bodies, get some water, or have a snack. We played active learning games, like spelling baseball or multiplication showdown, where the kids were up out of their desks and moving (with purpose) around the classroom. There were also times throughout the day, where my students spread out, working on the floor or in our cozy classroom library. 

It’s important to break the hours up into shorter, reasonable chunks of time for our kids, especially when they are young.

The general guidance I’ve heard is that children can pay attention for 1 minute for every year of age, so a four-year-old can (theoretically) focus on a task for just 4 minutes. 

It’s developmentally-appropriate that our toddlers, preschoolers, and young school-age children jump from task to task all day long (especially if it’s a task that we came up with, and not them).

If you are homeschooling during the preschool or primary grade years, be sure to be prepared for more activities than you think is humanly possible to do in one day. Your day might look something like: breakfast, outside time, snack time, read-aloud time, screen time, craft, lunch, nap, free play, sensory bin, dinner, bath, bed. 

Some activities will be a hit. And some activities will be a flop. Unfortunately, we don’t know which are which until we try.

When I was teaching preschool, I basically scheduled things out in 10-minute blocks: wash hands, eat snack, clean up, storytime, activity at the table, circle time. We kept those little bodies moving all day long, offering longer blocks for outside time and free play in the classroom.

I talk a lot about the power of open-ended toys for play. One of the main reasons is that they can increase stamina and strengthen attention spans. We all know that when our kids choose the activity, they can focus longer than when we give them an adult-directed task.


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Here are a few more simple tips to strengthen attention spans at home:

  • Tip #1: Model it ourselves. 

I’ll be honest — I am very easily distracted, especially when my phone is nearby. It’s so easy to click on that new notification or scroll on social media.

If I want my own kids to be more focused, I need to be more mindful of my distractions (or “multi-tasking”) when they are in the room.

  • #2: Simplify the environment.

We need to remove unnecessary distractions. Set up a quiet space without extra noise, screens, or toys that might draw attention. Some children will appreciate fewer visual distractions or noise-cancelling headphones. And some children actually find it easier to pay attention WITH background noise, a movable seat, or some type of fidget tool. 

When my kids were little, I used to set out a blanket or sheet in the middle of the room with just one toy to focus on. We also used to do tot trays right after nap time, so they knew that a fun learning activity would be waiting in the same place each day.

  • Tip 3: Make it easier.

Too often, we put young children in adult-size chairs at home. As someone with short legs, I can tell you how uncomfortable it can be when my feet don’t touch the floor. Consider investing in a child-size table and chair — or setting up a foot rest for your child so their legs don’t dangle uncomfortably. 
Give your children lots of safe ways to move their bodies during the day without fear of getting in trouble.

Use countdown timers or music to mark the passing of time. For young children, 10 minutes can feel like an hour, but listening to a recording of their favorite picture book while they play independently can help them stay engaged. 

And don’t just send them off to play without some idea of what they want to do. Too many choices can lead to decision fatigue or destructive choices like dumping out all the toys in the toy box. 

  • Tip #4: Build stamina slowly.

Attention spans can be strengthened with just a little bit of practice every day. But, just like we don’t expect our children to hop on a two-wheeler and ride a mile without any experience, neither should we expect focus and persistence to come naturally.

  • And, lastly, tip 5: Use rhythms and routines.

Kids crave structure. They want to know, for example, that their read-aloud time is going to come with a snack every day. Or going outside after breakfast will become something they can expect, and then they will start to plan their outdoor play while they eat.

Kids also crave novelty. Doing the same thing the same way every time becomes boring — so they look for an outlet — a way to make things more engaging. We can change up the location of an activity or listen to music while we do our chores.


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All right parents, it’s time for homework. If you have a few minutes this week, I would love for you to pull out a piece of paper or journal, and reflect on these questions:

  1. Using the age to minutes ratio, how long is your child’s average attention span? Is that more or less than you expected?
  2. Does your child need a quiet space alone to concentrate or a bustling room with the rest of the family? (And is that the same or different from what you need?
  3. When your child is having trouble focusing, do they withdraw and daydream or act out to get attention?
  4. Which tip from today’s episode will you try first?

You can head to to read a full transcript of today’s episode, to download a copy of these questions and see our favorite resources related to today’s topic.

Thank you for listening to this week’s episode, and thank you for supporting Learn Their Way!

Be sure to tune in next time as we talk about child development timelines. See you then!


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Learn Their Way Episode 5: Strengthening Attention Spans

** Music by Lesfm from Pixabay