Attention & Persistence Skills

What is Attention & Persistence?

Attention and persistence are skills that pertain to selecting and maintaining attention towards relevant information, such as listening to the teacher or persisting on a task. Studies have shown that children with the ability to pay attention and persist with a task have a greater chance of future academic success.

Why is Attention & Persistence Important?

Young children develop the capacity to maintain attention towards objects or people for long periods of time through early experiences. As their innate curiosity drives them to focus on sounds and objects and physically explore their environments, children develop skills in persistence and attentiveness. 

After twelve months of age, children become increasingly focused on completing and repeating simple tasks. For example, they may spend a long period of time putting toys in a bucket, dumping the bucket then filling the bucket again. They also start to become very persistent when trying to accomplish a goal.

At this time, children do not have the self-regulatory skills to control their emotions and may act out in frustration when they confront challenges or fail at their goals. As with the development of other social-emotional skills, being responsive to a child in distress and supporting his needs in a timely manner is very important in the development of early skills in attention and persistence. Caregivers should encourage children to keep trying and help them problem-solve. 

What Does Attention & Persistence Look Like?

Children demonstrate attention and persistence by maintaining attention on people, things and projects and by persisting in understanding and mastering activities. These skills will look different at each phase of the developmental process: 

Infants focus for a short period of time on a person, sound or light and begin shifting attention from one person or thing to another.

Toddlers participate in daily routines or familiar activities. They focus on engaging activities for a short period of time and assert a desire to start or end an activity.  

Preschoolers initiate an activity and help complete it. They practice or repeat an activity many times until successful and persist with help even if there are problems or distractions.  Primary schoolers sustain focus for longer times even if there are distractions. They work around challenges and solve problems as they work toward their goals. While working on their tasks, they respect others’ belongings and space.