13 - 15 Months

Wish your toddler would focus? Try playing together first

Father playing with child

When you read a book or practice stacking blocks with your toddler, you do more than bond with them. You also help increase their attention span ❤️

Two related studies published in 2019 and 2022 found that when parents and their toddlers focused on a toy together, the toddlers paid attention a little longer and engaged in more complex play. This is called “joint attention.” In the studies, the toddlers continued to play with their toys—even after the parents shifted their attention away. 

Tips to extend your child’s focused play

In photo: Slide & Seek Ball Run from The Babbler Play Kit

Touch, gesture, and talk about their toys. Play alongside your toddler as they put a ball down the Slide & Seek Ball Run, for example. Gesture to show them how to open the different doors and get the ball out, narrating as you play: “Look, here’s the ball!” 

Use action words. One study showed that when parents used “action-orienting” talk—”Let’s roll the ball!”—the toddlers engaged in even richer and deeper play. Watch your toddler and comment on their actions or what they could do next. You could say, “Do you want to feed your bunny a carrot?” or “Let’s knock over the tower!” 

Follow your toddler’s lead. Notice where your child looks or reaches and then focus on that object together. According to one of the studies, toddlers paid attention longer when their parents followed their child’s interests.  

Eventually, you may start play with your child and then leave them to play on their own while you do something nearby.

Learn more about the research

Schatz, J. L., Suarez-Rivera, C., Kaplan, B. E., & Tamis-LaMonda, C.S. (2022). Infants’ object interactions are long and complex during joint engagement. Developmental Science, e13239. 

Suarez-Rivera, C., Smith, L. B., & Yu, C. (2019). Multimodal parent behaviors within joint attention support sustained attention in infants. Developmental Psychology, 55(1), 96–109. 

Yu, C., & Smith, L. B. (2016). The social origins of sustained attention in one-year-old human infants. Current Biology, 26(9), 1235-1240.


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Posted in: 13 - 15 Months, 16 - 18 Months, 19 - 21 Months, 22 - 24 Months, Cognitive Development, Concentration, Lovevery App, Independent Play, Parenting, Child Development

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