Focus is a process that uses multiple senses and parts of the brain to direct attention toward something specific. The ability to focus is essential to learning. Your baby must block out unnecessary stimuli, tune in to the task of absorbing information, process that information, and use the information to solve problems.
In the beginning, your baby naturally pays attention to familiar things in her world, such as your voice or facial expression. When she can focus her attention on one thing and ignore others, she learns to control her impulses and delay her reaction.
Infancy and toddlerhood are times to explore the world and to openly take in and respond to various stimuli. Young babies do possess the ability to focus, however, and they use this ability to achieve their goals and to learn about the world in their own way.
In Pathways to Competence: Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Sarah Landy, PhD and Joy Osofsky, PhD explain that babies pay attention to what interests them. They can focus when they want or need to.
Your child’s ability to focus will continue to improve well into adulthood. While she is young, however, you can make it easier for her to exercise focus in the following ways:
- Provide a calm environment with stimulating experiences.
- Encourage her to choose her interests.
- Relate to her directly—talk, read, and play.
- Be patient when she is engrossed in an activity.
- Follow her lead when playing with her.
- Allow extra time for her to dress herself when using zippers, buckles, or snaps.
Stages of Focus
- In her first few months, your baby can stare at your face contentedly, become absorbed in kicking at a mobile, or be persistent in her cries when she is hungry. Between three and six months, her hand gestures and eye motions begin to work together in joint focus.
- At six months and throughout her first year, your baby’s ability to focus grows. She can work diligently to pull herself to sit, stand, and walk. She can focus on an object and move to get it.
- At two years old, your baby can become engrossed in play or in exploring an object. Her attention span is now about seven minutes.
- At three years old, she can follow simple directions and complete a task. She can sit through a short play, a story, or a movie.