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My son is 16 months old now. He is a very energetic boy.

When he hears music, he automatically will shake both of his hands as if he is dancing. There is no TV in our house, but sometimes, we watch youtube. While watching youtube I noticed that my son can only focus for around 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, he will get bored and want to move on to other activities. Based on this first finding, I tried to do some investigations as to whether it is true or not that my son is only able to focus for around 15 minutes.

The result is that this is true regardless of whether he is playing with a book, his toys, etc. Should I be worried about this?

What is actually the average attention span for his age? If it needs to be improved, any suggested ways to improve his attention span?

Any good references will be welcome.

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Keep in mind that research has shown us that even adults are really only able to focus on one thing for about 12-15 minutes without getting bored. Mileage varies depending on the topic and the person's knowledge of the subject, but 15 minutes for a not-quite 1 1/2 year old is quite good. If I can dig out my books, I might write a more detailed response later, though Beofett seems to cover it pretty thoroughly below. –  Meg Coates Feb 26 '13 at 15:13
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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

A 15 minute attention span is perfectly normal for his age.

In fact, 15 minutes is pretty good.

Dr. Roy Benaroch, a general pediatrician, wrote this on his blog regarding toddler attention spans:

Normal toddlers can have a very short attention span. At times, they’ll zoom from toy to toy like a hummingbird, barely touching one thing before moving on to another. It’s common for toddlers to lose interest three pages into a story, and completely lose interest in a new toy by the time Mom gets the package open!

Occasionally, toddlers will spend a solid five minutes or more on one toy, but expect that to be the exception, not the rule.

The Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU agrees, saying that the length of the attention span can also vary depending on the subject, environment, etc.:

Realistically, children, ages 15-30 months, attend for 10-15 minutes when highly motivated. The complexity of the task also matters as a demanding task may require so much concentration that attention cannot likely continue for more than 5-7 minutes.

That same page indicates that 15 minutes isn't bad even for a pre-schooler:

For preschoolers, attention span will vary by interests and situations. For example, when exploring in a familiar place with a new toy, a child may attend for 15 minutes or more. However, in a distracting place or when others stressors are interfering (illness, hunger, thirst, need to use the toilet), a child may appear distractible or less attentive.

As far as when you want to start worrying about a child's attention span, earlyinterventionsupport.com lists some milestones, broken down by age:

Ages 8 months - 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.

Ages 16 months - 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.

Ages 20 month - 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.

Age 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.

Ages 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.

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thank you for your details explaination ^^ –  kalingga Feb 27 '13 at 16:06
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I've found with both of my boys at that age, that attention span is also related to their investment in the topic matter and their ability to comprehend. In other words they are not unlike adults - if they are already interested in the subject matter (say firetrucks) then they will have a longer attention span. And if you pick programs that communicate to their level (short sentences, simple stories, good visuals) they will stick with the story a lot longer.

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