Help Your Child Talk: Six Attention Tips for Babies and Two for Toddlers

Here's the fifth extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

This week's extract starts with a reminder of the tips you've learned for helping your baby use his five senses and take notice of things around him. Then I've added two tips on how to help a toddler transfer his attention from his toy to you - really useful when you need to say something important.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Attention skills: six tips for babies

• Make eye contact so he turns his attention on to you.

• Speak gently: loud noises disrupt his concentration.

• Notice which senses your baby uses and encourage all five: listening, looking, tasting, smelling and touching.

• Play peep-bo and sing nursery rhymes, to have fun and help him concentrate a few seconds longer.

• Limit the number of toys around him so he's not confused by too much choice.

• Let him sleep often and be quiet. His brain is busy building connections, and needs sleep.

Attention skills: toddlers
During his second year, things change for your child. He starts to be able to move his attention deliberately from what he is doing, in order to look at you when you speak to him. He turns to look when you call his name, then goes back to his toy. Sometimes he chooses not to give you his attention, if the toy is more interesting.

Attention skills: attract his attention
He sometimes needs your help to move his attention to you. Although he is starting to understand words, he won't hear or understand you if his attention is elsewhere.

Maybe you find he ignores you when you speak to him, because he's playing with his favourite toy. Sometimes, you've said his name three or four times before he turns to you.

Here are two tips on how to attract his attention when you need to. Both are better than shouting his name and feeling frustrated. 

• Try moving the toy he's focused on, quite  slowly, until it’s in front of your face. His eyes follow the toy. When he sees your face smiling at him from behind it, he’s more likely to look at you, forget the toy and concentrate on what you say. Say 'get your coat' while he's looking at you and you'll be surprised at how readily he understands.

• Sometimes, though, just wait a moment or two, until he’s finished what he’s doing. It doesn’t take long, and there'll be a window of opportunity as his attention moves away from the toy. That's when he’s ready to pay attention to a new activity. Watch him and choose your moment.

Come back next week for the next extract to find out more about your child's attention skills as he becomes a toddler. A link will appear HERE

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