Toddler Week 24


Joint Attention

Together with the cognitive skill of joint attention, your toddler is using fine motor skills to point to the things he or she finds interesting and wants to share with you. Joint attention is a two-way street—one in which you respond to your toddler’s action, and one in which your toddler responds to you in turn. It teaches your toddler valuable interaction skills such as turn taking, using gestures, and seeing the world from someone else’s perspective. It may be a simple cognitive skill, but it is one that has incalculable value for later academic success as the whole school experience is based on the assumption that children are able to pay attention jointly.

At this stage of your toddler’s development, he or she should be able to pay attention for three to five minutes for every year she gets older. In other words, at sixteen months old, your toddler will comfortably concentrate on an activity that he or she is interested in for about five minutes.  Don’t force your child to pay attention to something that he or she is not interested in. Follow your child’s interests instead and make use of his or her passions to develop the ability to pay joint attention. Toddlers are able to concentrate for a longer time on activities they are naturally interested in.

Here are some practical things that you can do to develop joint attention:

  • Read some more together! – Sharing a book together is one of the best ways to develop joint attention.
  • Look at your toddler’s baby photographs – Most children have a keen interest in seeing pictures of other babies. Show your toddler’s pictures as a baby and explain what he or she was doing then.
  • Play with telephones – Do role-playing with two toy telephones and have a ‘conversation’ with your toddler. Encourage him or her to elicit responses by asking questions. You may make the appropriate gestures to help with understanding what you mean.
  • Visit an art exhibition – Quality art is not only for adults! Toddlers’ horizons expand if you expose them to beautiful art. Put them on their stroller while at an exhibition or museum, and focus on enjoying the art works together.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Encouraging joint attention will serve your toddlers well as they mature and the demands of their school environment increase.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here