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Foundation: Attention Maintenance

California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations.
Important Notice: Programs Moved to CDSS

While the California Department of Education continues to operate the California State Preschool Program, the Early Childhood Development Act of 2020 (Senate Bill (SB) 98, Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020) authorized the transfer of many childcare programs from the California Department of Education to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) effective July 1, 2021. The content on this page may include programs that have moved to CDSS. For additional assistance you can either visit the CDSS Child Care Transition web page External link opens in new window or tab. or call 1-833-559-2420 for more information.

The developing ability to attend to people and things while interacting with others and exploring the environment and play materials
8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of age, children pay attention to different things and people in the environment in specific, distinct ways. (Bronson 2000, 64)

At around 18 months of age, children rely on order and predictability in the environment to help organize their thoughts and focus attention. (Bronson 2000, 191)

At around 36 months of age, children sometimes demonstrate the ability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time.

For example, the child may:

  • Play with one toy for a few minutes before focusing on a different toy. (6–9 mos.; Parks 2004, 12 and 26; 8mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 241)

    Focus on a desired toy that is just out of reach while repeatedly reaching for it. (5–9 mos.; Parks 2004, 49)

    Show momentary attention to board books with bright colors and simple shapes.

    Attend to the play of other children.

    Put toy animals into a clear container, dump them out, and then fill the container up again. (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 21)

    Stop moving, to focus on the infant care teacher when she starts to interact with the child.

For example, the child may:

  • Expect favorite songs to be sung the same way each time and protest if the infant care teacher changes the words.

    Insist on following the same bedtime routine every night.

    Nod and take the infant care teacher’s hand when the teacher says, “I know you are sad because Shanti is using the book right now, and you would like a turn. Shall we go to the book basket and find another one to read together?”

For example, the child may:

  • Realize, during clean-up time, that he has put a car in the block bin and return to put it in the proper place.

    Search for and find a favorite book and ask the infant care teacher to read it.

    Pound the play dough with a hammer while talking with a peer.

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (4 to 7 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Remain calm and focused on people, interesting toys, or interesting sounds for a minute or so. (1-6 mos.; Parks 2004, 9)
  • Explore a toy by banging, mouthing, or looking at it. (Scaled score of 9 for 3:26-4:05 mos.; Bayley 2006, 52)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (9 to 17 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Pay attention to the infant care teacher's voice without being distracted by other noises in the room. (9-11 mos.; Parks 2004; 12)
  • Focus on one toy or activity for a while when really interested. (By 12 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 241)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (19 to 35 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Play alone with toys for several minutes at a time before moving on to different activity. (18-24 mos.; Parks 2004, 15)

  • Sit in a parent's lap to read a book together. (Scaled score of 10 for 21:16-22:15 mos.; Bayley 2006)

Next Foundation: Understanding of Personal Care Routines

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Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 8, 2022