Attention is relevant for many mental functions as it controls the flow of information between a person and his/her physical, psychological and social world. By selecting which information is prioritized, it has, for example, a key function for learning processes. Two prominent types of attention, namely involuntary and voluntary attention, are often studied separately from each other. However, in many every-day situations the interplay between these two determines the selection of information. Here we present a three-stage model of attention linking involuntary and voluntary attention. We introduce prevailing experimental paradigms and important psycho-physiological measures indicating various aspects of attention that were used to study this model under a developmental perspective. A review of studies considering the development of attention from childhood to adulthood reveals characteristic differences between children and adults in attentional functions. We discuss the relevance of this research for educational and clinical psychology.