Why children have attention issues

By June 3, 2024 June 13th, 2024 Occupational Therapy
Children with attention issues doing regulating activity in Occupational Therapy session in Bondi Junction and Mascot

Attention issues are common among young children and can be a source of concern for parents and teachers. Understanding why young children have attention issues can help in addressing these challenges effectively. Let’s explore the reasons behind attention issues in young children and what can be done to support them.

Developmental Stage

One of the main reasons young children have attention issues is their developmental stage. Children’s brains are still growing and developing. Consequently, their ability to focus and pay attention is not fully matured. Just like how a toddler learns to walk before they can run, their ability to concentrate and stay focused is still in its early stages. It’s natural for young children to have shorter attention spans compared to older kids or adults.

High Energy Levels

Young children are often full of energy. They love to move, explore, and play. This high energy can make it difficult for them to sit still and focus on one thing for a long period. For example, a child might have trouble paying attention during storytime because they are excited about playing with toys or running around. Their need for physical activity can sometimes clash with activities that require sitting still and concentrating.

Curiosity and Exploration

Children are naturally curious and eager to learn about the world around them. This curiosity drives them to explore and discover new things constantly. While this is a positive trait, it can also lead to attention issues. For example, a child might start drawing a picture but then get distracted by a new toy or an interesting sound. Their desire to explore everything around them can make it hard to focus on a single task.

Lack of Interest

If a child finds a task or activity boring or uninteresting, they are more likely to have trouble paying attention. For instance, if a child is not interested in a particular book, they might quickly lose focus and look for something more engaging. It’s important to provide activities that are engaging and suitable for the child’s interests and developmental level.


In today’s world, children are often surrounded by a lot of stimuli. Bright screens, loud noises, and busy environments can be overwhelming and distracting for young children. A child might struggle to focus on a puzzle if there’s a lot of noise from the TV or other children playing nearby. Overstimulation can make it difficult for them to concentrate on a single task.

Emotional Factors

Children’s emotions play a significant role in their ability to pay attention. If a child is feeling anxious, sad, or excited, it can affect their concentration. If a child who is worried about starting preschool, they might have trouble focusing on playing. Helping children manage their emotions can improve their attention span.

Sleep and Nutrition

Adequate sleep and proper nutrition are essential for a child’s overall development. This includes their ability to pay attention. A tired or hungry child is more likely to be irritable and have trouble concentrating. Ensuring that children get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet can positively impact their attention and focus.

Individual Differences

Every child is unique, and some children naturally have more difficulty with attention than others. Some might have underlying conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)  which can significantly impact their ability to focus. It’s important to recognise that each child’s attention span can vary, As a result, we need to be patient and understanding of their individual needs.

Strategies to Support Attention

Understanding the reasons behind attention issues in young children is the first step. Here are some strategies to support their attention development:

  1. Create a Structured Environment: Establishing a routine and creating a structured environment can help children know what to expect and when to focus on certain activities.
  2. Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps can make it easier for children to concentrate and feel a sense of accomplishment.
  3. Use Visual Aids: Visual schedules and charts can help children understand and follow routines, making it easier for them to stay on track.
  4. Provide Physical Activity: Regular physical activity helps children burn off excess energy, making it easier for them to focus during quieter activities.
  5. Engage Their Interests: Choose activities that align with the child’s interests to keep them engaged and motivated to pay attention.
  6. Minimise Distractions: Create a calm and quiet environment for activities that require concentration. Turn off the TV and reduce background noise.
  7. Teach Self-Regulation Skills: Helping children learn to recognize and manage their emotions can improve their ability to focus and pay attention.
  8. Ensure Proper Sleep and Nutrition: Make sure children get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet to support their overall well-being and attention.
  9. Be Patient and Encouraging: Positive reinforcement and encouragement can go a long way in helping children develop their attention skills. Celebrate their successes and be patient with their progress.


Attention issues in young children are often a normal part of their development. By understanding the reasons behind these challenges and implementing supportive strategies, parents and caregivers can help children improve their focus and concentration. With time, patience, and the right approach, children can develop the attention skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Meet Carter

Carter came to OneOnOne Children’s Therapy when he was 2 years old. He had a diagnosis of autism and developmental delay. At the time, he had poor attention. However, that is not unusual for young children with developmental delays. Carter began our Early Start Denver Model program and and great progress. While he made amazing progress with communication, his posture was poor and his attention did not improve. Our Occupational Therapists modified his program to target more postural activities. They reduced one of his ESDM sessions and replace it with an OT session. Mum followed a series of exercises at home, as did the preschool. Carter’s attention quickly improved and he is at school now. His parents are still open to considering medication when he is older if his attention impacts his learning or friendships.

We’re here to support you

At OneOnOne Children’s Therapy, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Our clinics are not just a space for therapy – it’s a place where children can discover their strengths, overcome challenges, and reach their full potential.

By combining innovative therapy techniques with a stimulating and supportive environment, we’re proud to offer a holistic approach to paediatric therapy and early intervention that addresses the unique needs of each child we support.

Reach out for support

If you’re concerned about your child’s attention or want to learn more about how our Occupational Therapy program can help your child, OneOnOne Children’s Therapy is here to help. We have clinics in Bondi Junction and Mascot – in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs.

Call our Bondi Junction and Mascot clinics on (02) 80657837 or email. You can book a free 30 minute phone call with us to discuss how we can support your child’s unique journey