How long should my child sit?

January 14, 2015

"How long should my child sit?"  is a question that is often asked by parents.  Definitely a valid question.  Unfortunately, there aren't any images-13clear cut expectations as to how long a child should sit.  Development occurs along a continuum.  Children are curious and need opportunities to explore and learn through trial and error.  I am a big proponent of using movement to enhance learning and language skills.  Certain chemical changes occur in the brain when movement occurs, this allows children to retain information, and use that information in everyday situations. 


General guidelines as to how long your child should attend to an activity:

images-148 - 15 month olds should attend to an activity for at least 1 minute.

16-19 month olds should be able to attend to a structured activity for 2-3 minutes.

20-24 month olds should attend to an activity by themselves, or with an adult for 3-6 minutes.

25-36 month olds can typically pay attention to an activity for 5-8 minutes.

3-4 year olds should be able to attend to an activity for 8-10 minutes.

How to get your child to sit and play:

images-15Demonstrate how to play with toys.  My advice is to get on the floor and show them how to use toys.  Don't only focus on the primary way to play with a toy, show them different ways they can play with a specific toy.

Minimize the amount of options they have to play with.  I've been in homes where the entire house is filled with toys.  Although having options is important, it can also be overwhelming for the child too.  If your child "flutters" from one activity to the other, give them a few choices of play options and get down and play with them.

Offer toys that are at your child's developmental level.  What does this mean?  Some kids are developmentally at a 2 year-old level, but are actually 3 years old.  Choose and offer toys that ensures your child's success.   

Provide toys that your child is interested in.  It's all about motivation.  Play is supposed to be fun, offer your child toys that he/she likes and use them in different ways to expand their play schemes and their attention.  

Be silly.  Life is too short.  Sometimes we expect kids to grow up too fast as our society is always "go, go, go".  Take some time and show your child how much fun you can be.  Using high affect and big emotions often peaks a child's interest, and consequently they may be more willing to play with you.  

Although this article's intention was about sitting, in actuality the more important aspect is play skills.  Play skills are the foundation for language development, problem solving, creativity, and it provides a basis for critical thinking skills.  More important than sitting and completing a task is actually exploring and figuring out different ways to perform activities.  Make your child's play and learning experiences fun and interesting!

Stay tuned for a future blog about why/how movement enhances learning, language, and speech.  




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