How to help your child with joint attention

Joint attention is a valuable part of your child’s learning and development. Once the two of you have established attention on the same thing then you can talk about it and develop ideas together. In this video I share a few top tips for getting started in helping your child establish joint attention.

How to help your child with joint attention

First: notice faces. Where someone is looking is often a big indicator of what they’re thinking about. If you can get down at eye level with your child, it will be easier for you to notice what they’re paying attention to and to join in with that. If you’re at eye level it’s also easier for your child to notice what you’re looking at.

Second: always respond! If your child looks at something and then looks at you, then this is a big step towards joint attention. When you respond warmly to this, you’re showing your child the power of this simple act. So, you might respond by saying, ‘Ooh cool truck!’ Or, you could point to the thing that they just looked at ‘Oh wow!’ When you respond in this way you’re showing them how we can pay attention to the same thing, that I’m seeing what you’re seeing, I’m thinking about what you’re thinking about; That’s joint attention.

As your child gets older they’ll also start learning to attend to what you’re paying attention to, which is another valuable learning step. The bucket is a strategy introduced by Gina Davies, intended to develop attention for an adult-led acftivity. It’s based on finding something super exciting to show your child and being an inextricable part of that.

It’s important to remember that attention is a two way thing. This is not all about getting your kiddo to pay attention to you. You help them learn attention by also paying attention to them. Shape joint attention by noticing your child and responding to them.

I’m always saying – to get attention you need to give attention. Remember – a huge part of how you teach your child good attention is by modelling quality attention to them. It’s not about using their name and prompting them to listen to you. It’s about responding to what your child is paying attention to so that you start creating more experiences of joint attention.

I hope this gives you a simple starter for thinking about opportunities for joint attention with your little one. However fleeting that moment of attention, it’s a valuable step. And we all know, every tiny step we take together is a step in the right direction.

Interested in developing your child’s attention for adult-led activities? Here’s one of my favourite activity ideas.

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