19 answers

5 Year Old with No Attention Span

My 5 year old son is in Kindergarten. He is a great kid and gets along well with others. The problem that we are having seems to be his attention span. He's a young 5 in the class (most kids start at 6 now it seems). He sits in the front so the teacher can help keep him on task but he turns around when someone is talking and is slow to turn around or gets distracted easily. I don't believe it's ADD or ADHD it's more like either he's insterested or not. I'm not sure what to do to help this. Is it something that will happen as he gets older (maturity?)? Or should I be very concerned? I feel like it's just his age.
Kindergarten has been a world of surprises. It's been so academically steared instead of teaching the kids to adjust to the world of school, that it's been a whirlwind.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I don't know if you're familiar with the Love and Logic parenting books, but there is one geared toward developing attention skills that might be helpful to you. It sounds like at this time it may just be an age thing. Perhaps you should consider taking him out of school and starting again next year? It seems extreme, but may be best in the long run-- he'll always then have the advantage of being the oldest instead of always trying to catch up because he's so young.

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That's a fantastic question, J. --- I'm so grateful for your wonderful little guy that you see his issues as a part of the normal pattern- ' CAUSE IT IS ---- we DO ( as a school culture) expect ridiculous levels of ''sit and listen and attend'' from young boys - that's WHY you see so many kids starting K at 6 --- it's a great idea for boys- .
Continue to hold fast to you knowledge that you have a perfect - healthy - normal little boy. When he's 9 or so - you MAY see issues to look at - or you may not. Encourage his teacher to allow him to experiment -- can he attend better if he stands up? - has a bouncy ball to sit on ( there are special ones for that - as it allows kids to wiggle and still attend) Ask HIM what might help-you never know - he may know - or he may not.

You'll work it out - just hold on to --- the problem is our odd requirement ( that little boys sit still) not that theres' a problem with him. I promise that at least one teacher will try to '''sell'''' you that story before your son is 16 --- just consider them a door to door salesman and in your head say ''' no thanks, I don't need a fur lined toilet seat''' --.

J. ( retired teacher)

4 moms found this helpful

Okay, I am a former K-1 teacher, known for my radical ideas.

I don't believe that Kindergarten should be about teaching them to read and write--especially boys. Boys are not ready to sit quietly in Kindergarten and even !st grade. They need motion, and then they can sis for a while.

Your son is normal. Don't let them tell you different. If he is still this way at the middle of first grade you need to talk to his teacher about it. W.

3 moms found this helpful

I have a 6 year old with some special needs that my husband and I insisted he repeat Kindergarden. He struggled last year, all year.By the end of last year his behavior took a turn for the worse.He started to get aggressive.We sat down with the IEP team(Individual education plan) and may a choice to retain him. Half of the team were in agreement with us.This year he is doing great.The school dropped his IEP because he is doing so well.He is focused and able to do his work. He is the oldest in his class now with an August birthday but before was the youngest.It is amazing what a year makes.Hang in there.The new kindergarden is intense.I couldn't believe what they expect these kids to do.
Take care,
P. C.
(mother of two active boys 6 and 8)

1 mom found this helpful

There's lots of wonderful ideas, but here's a couple that haven't been mentioned. 1) Cut out TV (it shortens real attention spans because the kids are being entertained and no teacher can be that enticing) 2) Do more reading aloud at home, as has been suggested. It teaches them to sit still and focus on listening. I'd read at least 1/2 hr each day the books he loves. 3) Don't make him go to kindergarten. Teach him concepts at home while he's jumping around (or in short 15-20 min sessions). There is no reason he has to go, as many kids aren't ready to sit still, all day, and skipping kindergarten gives them an extra year to run and play. The only "real" concept they'll miss is things like how to stand in line and sit in a circle and take turns, all things that you can teach at home. Don't be convinced by others, be confident to do what is best for your child.

1 mom found this helpful

I think the short attention span is pretty normal for that age. I am quite happy that my daughter was born late in the year and will be almost 6 by the time she starts K.
Kindergarten was a great idea (sometimes still is) when their main objective was to teach children the social, motor and cognitive skills they need to prepare for school - now it's more like first grade and you better have your counting and reading down... I am not a huge fan of that and think that 5 year olds are simply too young for that kind of academic pressure.

1 mom found this helpful

A lot of people have different opinions but have you ever thought that it might be because he is a BOY!!!! Boys are distracted very easy, It is the way they are made. Boys and Girls are different and I think teachers handle boys the wrong way and expect all the kids (girl or boy) to behave the same and it just isn't in their nature. I wouldn't worry about it so much. I think they label kids with ADHD to much when it is just the lack of the school realising that maybe boys need to be taught different and handled in a different way.

1 mom found this helpful

Dunno if you are in Portland, but you can look into alternative schooling.

We are at Portland Village Charter School. It is Waldorf-methods, so specifically encourages parents to keep their children in kindergarten until they have a chance to integrate all the maturity pieces necessary for success in an academic classroom (and our version of "academics" is also maybe not very recognizable). My son went to a private Waldorf for his first year of kindergarten and I am waiting to talk to his teacher to find out whether she thinks he should move on after this second year or even maybe stay a third year ... and I have seen so many children, especially boys, who clearly (once one is looking for it) are not succeeding in the grades because they never were allowed to integrate (neurologically, for example) as children ...

There are a lot of moms who run up against the newstyle academic kindergartens and are taken by surprise. I know I was with #1 ... if "everyone is doing it," why does it HURT so much???? (I chose to make it stop hurting by leaving.)

1 mom found this helpful

Congratulations on kindergarten. Our youngest is a kinder this year too. Yeah, a little freedom.

Anyway, to your question. Let the teacher deal with it. Unless there is disruptive behavior and the teacher is contacting you about it, let it go. While he is in school, he is in her care and it is her job to help him work through the distractions. It is normal for kinders.
Our naturopathic has our two boys taking DHA Junior by Nordic Naturals with a liquid supplement called IntraKid. The DHA is a flavored fish oil (liquid or gels) and is supposed to help with concentration. It seems to work because our kinder teacher has noticed a remarkable difference since our son has been taking it. Another recomendation is to make sure your son has some type of protein for breakfast. All three of these things have helped our very distracted and active 5yr old.

Best wishes to you and your three gems.

I have a couple questions for you: Is there anyone else in your family line that gets distracted easily? What does caffeine do to your child?
I work with people with disabilities and ADHD runs in my family line. It skipped me, but others in my family have it. It is not a bad thing.. just a different way to funtion. Caffiene usually makes people calm down and focus better. It can come in the form of chocolate, tea, pop or coffee. Exercise usually is the best.. releases the endorphines which acts the same as the caffeine in regards to focus and calmness. Keep watch... kids aren't usually diagnosed with it until school starts.. where their need for attention brings it to the front. It may be just his age, and it may be something else... not to worry.. you can go online and get the child ADHD screening tool-easily enough. That might help you decide if there is more to this than meets the eye. Take care. Gramma of two little ones. C.

Hi J.,

For a brief time, I worked in Early Childhood Education and one of the things I learned was that many children - particularly boys - are simply not ready for our structured school environment until age 6.

This has NOTHING to do with their intelligence or future "success" (whatever that means). A child who is ready for K at age 5 is NOT more likely to succeed in life than a child who is not ready for K at age 5.

The university dean of the college I worked in was a big proponent of encouraging parents of boys to hold off a year before starting their children in Kindergarten, unless of course it was obvious the child was ready.

He started K at age 5 and struggled with school for years. His K and 1st grade teachers wanted to hold him back, but his parents (out of THEIR shame) refused to. Finally, in the ninth grade, he just couldn't keep up and the school forced him to go back and repeat 9th grade. At age 14, this was very traumatic and he still carries the emotional scars. It would not have been traumatic at all if his parents had held him back in K or 1st grade.

The good news is that today, he has a Ph.D., enjoys his work and is obviously a very intelligent man.

I am in no way implying that you are doing the same thing his parents did!! Quite the contrary - the fact that you are asking this question means you are putting your son first.

I only mention the above story because, if you do decide to delay K for your son or have him repeat K, it would NOT be an indication that your son is somehow less intelligent or capable than his peers, who truly are ready at age 5 for our educational system.

Best of luck with whatever you decide to do! M.

Kindergarten is alot more rigorous than what it was when you went. There is a high expectation that your child as attended pre-school or is ready to sit still, listen and stay on task. To help your guy with this, work at home with him on following instructions and sitting up to the dinner table to color or work on page out of a workbook. Give him tasks that are some what simple, but require him to pay attention and then do something for the 10-15 minutes on his own. Giving him a book to 'read' or look at quietly for the same amount of time 10-15 min, increasing it weekly by 2 minutes until you reach 30 min of quiet, focused activity. Things to work on at the dinner table for activities would be coloring within the lines, working on his penmanship with letters and numbes, cutting with scissors, gluing things on paper. All fine motor skills and all requiring concentration and attention to detail. These are some of the things that they teach in pre-school, so he's "competing" or be compared to those kids who have already mastered these tasks and have learned to focus. It's not that he's slow or incapable, he's just not been exposed, so expose him at home, he'll catch up rapidly as he wants to do what the others are doing as well and as fast. Make sure he knows his colors and can recognize his letters and numbers. Give him post it notes with the letter of the day on them and have him put the post its on things at home that begin with that letter.
Again, he'll catch up and his attention span will grow... it just has to be nurtured. It's great you're at home to help make that happen. Congrats on your kindergartener!!!!

You said he was a young 5 year old, which I assume means that he just turned 5. He is acting the right way for his age. Even if he were 6 doesn't necessary mean he will behave just like what is written about that age. The lines are not drawn hard, but rather more like a zigzag. Your son will be fine. You might consider giving him an extra year of kindergarten, so he'll be an older one in the class too if that seems best for him.

You did not say when his birthday is...lots of boys (and some girls) with summer birthdays that turn 5 right before school starts have problems with being ready for kinder. What does his teacher say? If she is experienced she should be able to see if it is his age that is contributing to the problem. I taught kinder for a few years and if I had one suggestion for parents it would be that if your child has a summer or fall birthday to really consider if your child is ready to be in a kinder environemnt or if they need another year to mature. Some kids are really ready and some need to start later.
BTW 5 years old is awfully early to be slapping a label on a kid like ADD or ADHD, unless the problem is VERY VERY SEVERE. I don't recall any kinder teacher that I have worked with ever having a kid tested for or diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. 5 is very young to make such determinations.

I was a public school teacher for 13 years before staying at home with my two daughters and I can tell you that the academic pressures of those early grades have become insane. Kindergarten is no longer play time and social adjustment but an "early screening" year for academic "concerns". This can lead to incorrect and hasty labeling of immature boys not ready to sit and buckle down as ADHD,defiant, or learning disabled. You may want to think about other kindergarten alternatives that may be more interesting to him like Montessori schools or simply taking him out of kindergarten and entering him next year and see how he does. MOST 5 year old boys are not ready to handle the demands they are placing on modern kindergarteners.



It very well may be just a maturity thing. Some kids just aren't ready for school at five. Is he grasping the academic part OK? Is he meeting the standards ok? You can talk to his school counselor about your concerns and his pediatrician too. But I would really hesitate before allowing anyone to label him just yet (like ADD ADHD). Best of luck to you.

I don't know if you're familiar with the Love and Logic parenting books, but there is one geared toward developing attention skills that might be helpful to you. It sounds like at this time it may just be an age thing. Perhaps you should consider taking him out of school and starting again next year? It seems extreme, but may be best in the long run-- he'll always then have the advantage of being the oldest instead of always trying to catch up because he's so young.

I have an almost 5 year old with a short attention span. I think it's very common in kids this age. But that's just my opinion. At the same time, he's starting preschool next year and I am worried we will have the same experience as you are. So, we decided to enroll him in karate. The point is to get him into a team oriented activity where he gets an opportunity to learn how to listen to instructions, wait his turn etc. I'm not sure it will work, but figured it was worth a try. Just wanted to throw it out there for you....

I could have written your posting! We're going through the same thing with our K's attention span. All I can tell you is what we've been trying - keeping the house as orderly as I can (not very), reading aloud and having him read to us a couple of times a day, making sleeping and bedtime a priority (starting the routine about 6:45 and leaving him and his brother sleepy but awake and usually asleep by 8 pm), making sure that we let him take responsibility for remembering school things and helping him to stay organized (forgetting folders is less disastrous now than it will be later), sticking to one short and fairly educational video a day, and limiting his food choices to fairly healthy ones. Stay the course! It's got to get easier, right?


I think it's very much the age group. My son is almost 5 1/2 and I feel I'm telling him to stop climbing the walls every 30 seconds or so. He will be starting Kindergarten in September, and in October turn 6. If it weren't for his birthday being six weeks after the cut off he'd be where your little boy is now.

Like Judy C has said, don't let anyone sell you something you don't want. Little boys seem to be built to wiggle and not pay attention. Someday they do grow out of it, I'm just not sure when.

Good luck,

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