Attention and Listening Development

August 21, 2018 No Comments

What are attention & listening skills

Attention and listening development is an essential component of your child’s speech and language development and is the basis of all learning.

Why are attention and listening skills important?

Good attention and listening skills will support your child’s:

  • Social skills development
  • Understanding of language
  • Use of language
  • Speech sound development
  • All areas of learning

All children will develop attention & listening skills at different speeds, however they will typically move through recognised  stages of development:

STAGE 1: Distractible (0-1 Years Approx.)

Receptive Language Development (Baby)

At this stage your baby is extremely distractible. Their attention can only be held temporarily by the primary stimulus (e.g. noise; sight) in their surroundings.

STAGE 2: Single Channelled Attention (1-2 Years Approx.)

Your child is now able to focus for a period of time on an activity of his/her choosing

This level of his/her attention and listening development is inflexible, as your child will need to switch off from all other stimuli in their surroundings to maintain their attention

At this stage you might find that your child ‘ignores’ you, or they may appear to be ‘stubborn’

STAGE 3: Accepting Adult Attention (2-3 Years Approx.)

Receptive Language Development - Child

Although your child’s attention and listening is still single channelled, he/she is now able to switch from their attention from an activity to a direction and then back to task again.

The adult will need to encourage this shift in attention at this stage e.g. ‘look’ ‘listen’, etc.

STAGE 4: Pre-Dual Channeled Attention (3-4 Years Approx.)

Your child is starting to control the focus of his/her own attention, however his/ her attention is still single channelled.

Your child will need to give his/her full attention (auditory and visual) in order to be able to follow instructions given.

STAGE 5: Dual Channeled Attention (4-5 Years Approx.)

At this stage your child is now able to give their full attention (auditory and visual).

The length of time they can focus this attention will initially be short but will gradually increase.

Your child will no longer have to look at you when you are speaking, as they can now listen at the same time as they are working or playing.

Stage 6: Sustained Attention (5-6 Years Approx.)

Sustained and integrated attention will typically be established by the time your child starts in full-time education.

What can I do to develop my child’s attention & listening skills?

If you are looking for ways to develop your child’s attention & listening skills why not check my post for ideas!


  • Adapted from Cooper, Moodley and Reynell’s (1978) Stages of Attention Development

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