Tamariki love to explore widely, and it takes time to develop the skill of staying focused on one thing. Whānau can support this by removing distractions, noticing what their child is taking an interest in, and encouraging them to focus on it.

The ability to stay focused develops over time and varies from child to child. Parents help their child to focus when they notice their toddler’s interest in something and encourage them to focus on it. Ask the parents:

  • What sort of things is your child enjoying doing lately?
  • What have you noticed them focusing on more?
  • Why do you think that is?

Toddlers are busy little people interested in what’s going on. They want to explore and learn about their world.

On page 24 of the booklet Te Kōhuri 1, the term ‘ ’ is explained. The inquisitive explorer is ‘into everything’ because they’re intent on learning about their world. It’s a healthy way to be, although exhausting at times for whānau.

Talk about how parents can help their child to focus. They can get their child’s attention with eye contact and, if necessary, get down to the child’s level to talk to them with a calm, clear voice and manner.

Whānau might need help to identify what is reasonable to expect of their child at this stage. Letting their toddler ‘lead’ and resisting the temptation to ‘take over’ can be hard for some parents.

Look at the home environment – is it calm and helpful for concentration? Busy homes where the TV is always on, music is playing, and lots of children and people are talking can be distracting for a toddler who is learning to focus.

Talk about play activities in the home and their appropriateness for the toddler. Read through the ‘Ngā ’ sections on pages 12–13 and 28–29 of Te Kōhuri 1 with mum and dad and talk about the suggested activities. Their toddler will enjoy them, especially if dad or mum joins in too. These activities strengthen their child’s ability to focus.

More play ideas and activities

Tamaiti will need some choice in their play and may need to move from one activity to another. Limiting the number of choices will help with focus. Materials like blocks, water and playdough are great because they can be used in different ways. This keeps the child’s interest going as they explore different ways to use them.

Conversation ideas

What do you do to encourage your toddler's play?
How does your toddler respond to that?
As an adult, what helps you when you need to focus on something?
What do you do to help your toddler to focus?
What have you noticed is distracting for them?

Helpful resources for whānau