The purpose of this study was to provide descriptive data on the attending behavior of children aged 18 through 23 months. The method used was designed to be clinically feasible for occupational therapy practitioners. Forty-eight children between the ages of 18 and 24 months were studied through observation of a 15-min session of free play with a standard set of toys. The child’s physical contact with objects was used as a guideline for timing. Four factors were examined: total time attending, total number of activities attended to, average attending time per activity, and longest time attending to one activity.
The Mann Whitney U statistic revealed that there were no significant differences between boys and girls on any of the four factors. There were, however, statistically significant differences between children aged 18 through 20 months and children aged 21 through 23 months for all of the factors except longest time attending to one activity.
The children in this study changed activities frequently (median of 10 activities in 15 min) and attended briefly (median attending time per activity of 81 sec). They were, however, capable of attending to one activity for much longer periods of time (median of 225 sec). With minimal adult intervention, the children spent an average of 12.5 min attending to the toys during a 15-min session. These results may augment other aspects of occupational therapy assessment by offering some insight into whether or not an individual child demonstrates age-appropriate attending behavior. Additionally, this standardized method of observation may offer occupational therapists a clinically feasible means of assessing attending behavior.