Yes, of course! You will notice that each age range for communication and language – listening and attention - contains a short statement about how the child might be concentrating…
0 – 11 months – fleeting attention
8 – 20 months – pays attention to dominant stimulus
16 – 26 months – rigid attention
22 – 36 months – single-channelled attention
30 – 50 months – focusing attention
40 – 60+ months – two-channelled attention
These statements relate to how and when babies and young children focus on activities, depending on their age and stage of learning. They are an explanation of the journey a baby takes from being unable to focus on anything for longer than a few seconds to being ready to start school, demonstrating the ability to stay on task for longer periods.
Note - we know that children learn best when they are interested in what they are doing… the deepest learning happens when they are engaged and motivated (learning characteristics) so it is important, when thinking about 'supporting learning' that you tailor activities to each individual child, using your observations and assessments of their previous learning to support their 'next steps' individual planning.
It is important that our activities and interactions are age appropriate – we know this by observing the individual child and recognising how they currently learn and what we can do to support them in the future (observations – assessment – next steps). Here is a brief explanation of children’s concentration levels using Early Years Outcomes as a guide to progress –
Child’s age – 0 – 11 months
Typical behaviour – EYO states that we might observe: ‘Fleeting attention – not under child’s control, new stimuli takes whole attention’
What does it mean? – You observe the baby looking from one thing to the next, unable to concentrate on anything that is happening, especially if something new attracts their attention. The child has no ability to deal with distractions and has to look or listen when disturbed. For example, they will watch a toy or you singing to them but if they hear the door banging they will turn to look.
Supporting learning – keep talking to babies and listening for their attempts to interact with you. Wait when they ‘talk’ and acknowledge their attempts to communicate.
Child’s age – 8 – 20 months
Typical behaviour – EYO states that we might observe the child paying: ‘attention to dominant stimulus – they will be easily distracted by noises or other people talking.’
What does it mean? – The toddler will sort of listen to you – until something more exciting comes along. Toddlers are rarely able to sit still and concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time because the world is full of too other exciting things for them to look at, listen to and do.
Supporting learning – offer a range of opportunities during the day for little ones to listen and chat, using their special words to tell you about their home, family, other setting lives and things they enjoy doing. Focus on the child – what the child is interested in – to promote concentration.
Child’s age – 16 – 26 months
Typical behaviour – states that we might observe: ‘Rigid attention – may appear not to hear.’
What does it mean? – You observe the child totally transfixed by what they are doing to the exclusion of everything else around them. For example, you call them to do something else and they appear to ignore you – they are not being rude: they are simply completely engrossed in what they are doing. It is how they learn at this age.
Supporting learning – sing rhymes, read books and tell stories, use puppets and small world toys to bring learning alive. The more vocabulary you can introduce at this age the better – start with nouns (naming words) and build on what the child is learning at home.
Child’s age – 22 – 36 months
Typical behaviour – EYO states that we might observe: ‘Single channeled attention - can shift to a different task if attention fully obtained – using child’s name helps focus.’
What does it mean? - At around the age of 2.5 – 3 years, children’s levels of concentration start to change. They can sit for longer when reading books or singing songs and, as long as you have their full attention, they will look at you and listen more carefully to what you are saying.
However, they will still struggle to pay attention to other stimuli (auditory or visual) from different sources at the same time and you will often need to work hard to hold their attention.
Supporting learning - grab their attention by using their name first… then you will find they can listen and do something – but usually only one thing at a time.
Child’s age – 30 – 50 months
Typical behaviour – EYO states that we might observe: ‘Focusing attention – still listen or do, but can shift own attention.’
What does it mean? – You observe the child concentrating on whatever they are doing, but they are able to move on and try other things if they hear you asking them. They are more likely to hear you because they are less focussed on what they are doing and more aware of others around them - this new ability helps you to teach them to share their time between different learning experiences.
Supporting learning – encourage children to sit and play for longer by ensuring the resources and equipment you offer them are age-appropriate and engaging for the individual child. For example, if the child has been to the zoo at the weekend, offer them opportunities to play with the zoo animals, read a book where the characters go to the zoo and learn some new animal sounds.
Child’s age – 40 – 60+ months
Typical behaviour – EYO states that we might observe: ‘Two-channeled attention – can listen and do for short span.’
What does it mean? - Also known as ‘integrated attention’ this describes when children are more able to stay at one task for longer – auditory and visual - but still only for short periods of time (depending on the child). For example, they can listen to instructions about what to do next … and do it when asked. Children are more likely to be able to be taught in a group by this age – but some children might still need support.
Supporting learning – as adults we use lots of different learning styles at the same time. For example, we might read a book while watching television or we might take notes while listening to a presentation. Children need to learn these skills to help them cope in a busy classroom at school, so we should be offering them opportunities to practice using ‘two-channelled attention’ during their play.
If you have any questions about this guidance, please ask!
Thank you, Sarah | Knutsford Training & Consultancy.