Parenting Resource

Does my toddler have a short attention span because she won’t sit still for a story?

Feb 25, 2016

Q: Does my toddler have a "short attention span" because she won't sit for a story for more than a minute?

A: It is perfectly normal for toddlers to not sit still very long—period. Most don’t like to stay in one place for long now that they can explore in so many new ways—by running, jumping, and climbing. So, an adult’s idea of snuggling on the couch to hear a story may not be the same idea a toddler has for story-time. You may only be able to read or talk about a few pages in a book at a time.

Here are some ways to engage active children in reading:

  • Read a book at snack times when your child may be more likely to sit for longer.
  • Offer your child a small toy to hold in her hand—such as a squishy ball—to keep her body moving while you read.
  • Read in a dramatic fashion, exaggerating your voice and actions. This often keeps toddlers interested.
  • Get your child active and moving by encouraging her to join in on familiar phrases or words, act out an action in the story, or find objects on the page. These “activities” can help their attention stay focused.
  • Choose stories that have the same word or phrase repeated. The repetition helps toddlers look forward to hearing the familiar phrase again and also develops their memory and language skills. Encourage her to “help” you read when you get to this refrain.
  • Try books that invite action on the part of the child, such as pop-up books, touch-and-feel books, and books with flaps and hidden openings for them to explore.