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Question: How can I encourage my two-year-old girl to play with her toys for longer? She doesn’t like to sit still and concentrate on anything for very long.

Doctor Woolfson's Answer:

How long do you expect her to concentrate for at this age? Are your expectations reasonable? Remember that children this age typically prefer to be on the move the whole time rather than sitting down to one activity for any length of time. How does her concentration compare to others her own age? Assuming, however, that her ability to focus is weaker than you can reasonably expect, there is lots you can do to help build her concentration, though bear in mind that progress is likely to be in small stages.

Choose some toys where the end of play is different from the beginning. For example, wooden threading beads start off with no beads on the thread and end up with some on the chord; likewise, animal snap cards require her to match two cards that are the same, until all the cards in the pack are matched. Then sit with her while she plays with the item herself, or play with her if it is a game that involves turns. Either way, your presence will encourage her to play for longer. Give her lots of gentle encouragement to persist with the activity for a few seconds more. Set a target time limit at the start (for instance, one minute) and when that time has been reached, end that game, telling how pleased you are with her for playing for so long. Gradually build up the amount of time she plays by a few seconds each day.