How a Child Plays

How a Child Plays

Play is both simple and complex. How a child plays depends on a child’s age, interest, and developmental level.

The attention span of a child will vary by age. A younger child’s attention span (between six months and three years old), can be short (anywhere between five to 15 minutes), and he or she will cycle through different play areas often. Older children, between four and seven, will play longer (25 minutes to an hour), and the play will be more engaging and complex. Many use the rule ‘two to five minutes per age,’ so a five-year-old could stay focused on a task for ten to 25 minutes.

However, there’s a misconception that if a child only plays with something for five minutes, he or she is bored, it isn’t challenging enough, or the child isn’t interested in it. A child will often play with something for five minutes, drop it, go do something else for 10 minutes, and then return to the prior activity again. This is the nature of free play! But always use your judgment. If your child seems bored or has mastered an activity (especially a structured toy or activity), for example, a 20-piece puzzle, it may be time to upgrade the level of the toy to a 50-piece puzzle.

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