How much of an attention span does your 20-month-old have?
My MIL (who's not my model for parenting -- she preaches CIO -- but who does early childhood education, works in preschools and has her special-needs training) commented that DS, 20 mos, seemed uninterested in the toys she'd left out for him, and might be developing some attention span issues.
Among my MIL's toy selection:
* foam stacking blocks, which he played with for 30 seconds (I think he likes his wooden stacking blocks more)
* wooden jigsaw puzzles but not the easier peg kind, but the kind where you have to put the whole picture together, which is much too advanced for him
* wooden musical instruments, rattles and a washboard (which again I think are both too basic, in terms of skillset, and too advanced, in terms of actually making music/rhythms)
* a book with magnetic pieces, which he liked a lot, especially the part where he got to put the magnets on the fridge
* a book with 35 mini-board books in it, for all the letters and numbers
She thought that the number of toys there should have kept him amused for a few hours, but he was much more interested in playing with her and getting outside to run around. She also commented that perhaps he has too many toys at home, so that he doesn't actually get into exploring any one toy in-depth. I think he just doesn't like her toys. His favourite toy at her place is a giant foam bat and ball that he can whack around.
But here are some samples of what he does do:
* loves the aquadoodle drawing mat. Will draw circles, and I think what is a smiley-face. Will "draw" independently for up to 5 minutes at a time, longer if someone's there and drawing with him. (He's not big on too much independent play.)
* Will read books for a long time if sitting on someone's lap. Again, he's not big on flipping through books by himself. He wants someone to tell him the words that go with the pictures.
* Will sit through us reading 6-8 books to him at bedtime. Will sometimes make us read "The Little Engine that Could" board book 2-3 times.
* Will do his jigsaw puzzles by himself. He's got a big ABC puzzle, with all the letters shaped like animals. He'll put all the pieces into place, and then clap for himself, and then take them all out and put them away into the carrying-box. (Again, this is about 10 minutes of independent play, and then he needs someone to interact with him)
* likes the tupperware shapesorter, and will work at the pieces to fit them in
* Will play independently with his wooden trains and "choo choo" to them, for 5-10 minutes at a time.
* will play in his sandbox for 20 minutes at a time, moving sand into various receptacles. Doesn't need me to do more than be there, but I can't leave or put down my little plastic rake. (If I pick up another sand-tool, he takes it away from me and gives me the rake.)
* Is now fascinated by the alphabet. When I read his I-Spy Alphabet book with him this morning, he named about half the letters before I did. I'm impressed that he can do that at 20 months!
So, what's your 18-24 mo's attention span like? Do they play by themselves for long periods of time, or need you close by all of the time?
I realize that there's a huge range in kids and abilities at this age, but I think she got him when he wanted active running-around play, not floor time with musical instruments and stacking blocks or books.
Although I will confess that I do have waaaay too many toys and books for him, so my MIL is right on that count. But I get bored easily, and since I'm also playing with the toys, I like having the variety.
My DD is a little older, but not much. She will play by herself for fairly long stretches - sometimes 30 to 40 minutes, but not with one toy. And from talking with friends who have children the same ages, I think she does this more than most kids her age. What seems ridiculous to me about what your MIL is saying is that my DD will do this - when she feels like it, not when I want her to. Sometimes she wants to play with ME. That doesn't mean she has a short attention span, in fact considering she doesn't forget she wants to play with me and go do something else, it shows she doesn't, etc.
I don't know how much time your son has with MIL but I should think if she isn't taking care of him say all the time (like a caregiver situation) then he is probably just wanting to spend the time he has with her actually playing with her. My Inlaws are visiting right now and generally my DD doesn't want to do anything that doesn't involve Grandma or Grandpa. If they leave the room, even if she wasn't interacting with them, she notices and goes on a search. This is the same girl who when we are home alone will play by herself for 45 minutes, but when Grandpa is here she rarely does this.
Also, I should think that if your child will sit still on your lap and listen to you read books for a few minutes or more, then its unlikely he has an attention problem. One thing you mentioned your MIL said does carry a bit of weight in my head - which is letting a child play in depth with a toy. I have cleared out the playroom to leave just a few toys and I find my DD gets much more involved in one toy if she doesn't have so many to confuse her (or to have all the pieces mixed up and strewn around). Not that this has anything to do with attention span necessarily, but I just think that isn't bad advice.
A few hours? My dd, 21.5 months, has gone a whole hour on rare occasions, but I felt like that was extremely unusual (and lucky for me!) And now that she's working on her molars, I'm not sure she's played independently for a week or more.
Sounds to me like your son is doing quite well!
Originally Posted by mightymoo
I don't know how much time your son has with MIL but I should think if she isn't taking care of him say all the time (like a caregiver situation) then he is probably just wanting to spend the time he has with her actually playing with her.
You're right on the button. DS is extremely social with most adults and older kids and would rather play with them than with any toy in the room. But he adores his grandmother and loves playing with her, so I'm sure that's what she's seeing. He only gets to see her every couple of weeks, and only spends a few hours alone with her every couple of months, so it's not a caregiver situation.
I also suspect that my MIL's comment comes mostly on her experience with 3-5 year-olds, as she only works in preschools, not daycares. And I'd expect a 3yo to have a bit more attention span than a 20mo.
Originally Posted by mightymoo
I have cleared out the playroom to leave just a few toys and I find my DD gets much more involved in one toy if she doesn't have so many to confuse her...
This will probably happen in the next couple of months as we rearrange stuff around the house for our new arrival in August/September. But of course at that point, I'll feel totally guilty about DS not getting enough attention, so will probably still leave too many toys out for him.
Thanks for your feedback -- I feel a little better about DS's attention span now.