Episode 19: My Opinion about the 3 Ways You Can Increase Your Child’s Attention Skills

There are many children that I encounter at my Speech therapy private practice that I describe as highly distractible. They are difficult to engage, even in a speech therapy session. One minute they are going here, the next, they are going over there, they are opening taps, they are under the table. They are just all over the place. Their attentions skills are quite, quite limited. And before we can any meaningful speech and language building with such a child. We have to first focus on increasing their attention skills.

Speech therapists ways of building attentions skills of a child who is not attending longer than short bursts of time in speech therapy sessions. I am going to talk about these ways here. 

1. Reading to your child

Reading is one sure way of increasing any toddler’s attention skills. And one advise I usually give to parents, is that they can read to their baby from the time they are born. A lot of parents say to me that they are waiting for their child to turn two so that they can start to read to them. But I say to them it is never too early to start reading to their child. All they need to do is ensure that they are being animated  in the way they are reading to their child. Reading to your toddler or child in an animated way will stretch their attention skills.

Please check out this blogpost on how to read to build their language skills. This post will give you tips on how to be animated with your voicing and your intonation.

Another tip about reading that I share with parents, is that, it is okay to read to your child the same book over and over again. Children actually love it when you read the same book to them. They  get really good at remembering the entire plot of the book. Please check out this post on the types of books that are better at growing your child’s language. These books are also good at building your child’s attention skills. 


Another reading tip to build your child’s attention skills


When a child is very engaged and understands the plot of the book you are reading to them, you start doing something speech therapists call, sabotage. Sabotage is a technique used in speech therapy. It is a technique where you read out what is not in the book and you wait for your child’s reaction.  You assume this technique when you know your child is very familiar with the plot of the book. So if you are talking about farmer so and so on a tractor going to the farm, you change the script and say “going to to town” instead of “going to the farm” and then wait for their reaction. 

If your child knows that you are going to sabotage from time to time, they will become more attentive to what you are saying. This is one tip that I like to use during my speech therapy sessions and with my children.

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2. Giving your child instructions to increase their attention skills

Giving your toddler instructions will not only benefit their attention but it will also grow their language skills. The more your child can follow instructions, the more they are learning and they longer they can tend for. Please check out this post on the importance of giving your child instructions. If you are not giving your child instructions, please start today. And vary the type of instructions. There are instructions that you give that are mostly of routine items or actions and there instructions about non-routine actions which are more unpredictable.

You not sending your child instructions because they are difficult to instruct will not only make them even more difficult to send but it will also not improve their attention skills. I often hear parents say, “oh, we don’t give instructions because he is just very difficult to engage, or to give instructions to”. And I think to myself, it is no wonder this child is delayed in talking or is unsettled or is distractible. 

3. Increase your child’s attention skills through various play & singing activities

Back and forthing in games such as peek-a-boo and other anticipatory games like “round and round the garden”, “three little piggies”, or any other games that keep a child glued and anticipating your next move, engages them making them tend longer. When singing nursery rhymes, make sure you involve the child with accompanying gestures or actions for that rhyme. Because as they participate, you are actually stretching their attention skills.

It is much more beneficial for your child to be sang to or to be involved in a song than for them to watch that rhyme or those rhymes on a screen.

Overexposure to screens could be causing your child's speech and language delay

Avoid overexposing your child to screens

Another tip that I will throw in, is to avoid overexposing your child to screens as screens can make your child highly distractible. Please check out my FREE speech and language therapy course, a 3-part video series that deals much more with why screens are detrimental to your child’s speech and language development. This 3-part video series will also help you develop your late-talker’s speech and language, and get your child talking, talking more or talking better. The Late-talker’s bootcamp course is another course that will teach you how to grow your child’s speech and language skills. Having these two courses is like having speech therapy at home.

Please start applying these tips today and let me know if you experience any results.

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Hi, I'm your teacher

Lorna Muthamia-Ochido

I run a family-centred speech-language therapy clinic, the largest in East and Central Africa. I’ve helped 15,000+ children optimise their communication outcomes (in other words, I make children smarter ☺).

Get your child talking in no time.

Access Module 1 of the Late- Talker’s Bootcamp course and get started with growing your own child’s language skills completely FREE!


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