What does the Attention and Regulation thread involve?

Attention is described as achieving and maintaining an alert state, and is crucial for learning, concentration and language development.

Self- regulation is also an important skill, essential for social-emotional development and early learning. Regulatory skills cover many different areas, but include our ability to manage all our different body systems such as breathing, and sleep and awake cycles, so that we can interact and respond to our environment and the people in it.

High risk infants may experience challenges with attention and regulation, for example:

  • Difficulties with dealing with sensory stimuli – maybe being under or overly responsive
  • Disturbances in sleep
  • Difficulties with feeding
  • Difficulties with mood regulation
  • Anxiety or fearfulness

How successful infants are at influencing their attentional and regulatory processes can dictate their subsequent emotional health, academic achievement, language development and behavioural development.

How can I apply the Attention and Regulation thread, to support my high risk infant?

In the early weeks and months of life, babies need help from their care givers as they adjust to their new world. With help, over time, babies will develop their own ability to regulate their responses to the world – such as crying, sleeping and maintaining an alert state.


Parents play a key role in their child’s development by promoting attention and regulatory skills. Learning how to read and interpret an infant’s behavioural cues will encourage parents to be attentive and tuned into their child’s needs.

The parent-infant relationship is the first environment where the infant learns about self-regulatory skills. The ability of parents to read their infant’s state, through their behavioural cues, will enable them support their infant and to provide sensory and motor experiences that will help the infant to transition smoothly between states and to maintain sleep and alert states.

As a baby’s attention develops, it allows them to spend longer periods engaging in social interaction and play. When a baby is engaged in play, they are learning many new skills. Babies learn in the context of a relationship, so giving a baby or young child a phone or screen to play with is not felt to be beneficial to early development, and may in fact be harmful. Some studies show early exposure to screen time may be detrimental to attention and language development.

You can access free resources to support your child, including leaflets to support developmental play here.

We’ve compiled a list of useful contacts here.

Learn about the other threads of the EiSMART framework here.

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