Looking at Attention Issues: Activities to Promote Attention

Pay Attention!

We all need to be good
at paying attention. Attending to our environment and the people in it is
essential for learning and safety. Today’s post starts a 3-part series on
attention issues. As we finish up summer and head into a new school year,
looking at attention issues is a timely topic.

Part 1: Tips and
Activities for Promoting Attention Skills

Part 2: What is
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Part 3: Getting Help


Tips and Activities for
Promoting Attention Skills


Face it, we all have
troubles with paying attention at times. Here’s a short list of just some of my

  • when I’m worried
  • when something is really interesting, other than the
    task at hand
  • when there’s a distracting song or background noise
  • when I’m bored (while listening, reading, watching…)
  • when I don’t understand what’s being said
  • when I’m tired
  • the list goes on…


So, considering all the
situations that can interfere with our ability to pay attention, shouldn’t we
cut our kids some slack? We’ve learned how to pull our focus
back to where it should be. Let’s give our kids some of those same
opportunities to learn.

Listed below are some
ways teachers and parents have come up with to help their kids develop
attention skills. Will all of them work for your kids? No. But consider them
and try the ones that seem promising to you.


Pay attention to what
works for you
 What works when
you have to pay attention but would really rather not? Try sharing this with
your child. It will show that we all struggle with attention issues and may be
helpful to him.

Listen to sounds on a
 There are
commercial materials available, or you can make your own. Listen to a sound and
do a specific activity.

Sound walk Listen for different sounds as you go on a
walk. Use these to paint a picture or write a story or poem.

Simon says Listen carefully for specific instructions
and then do the actions.

Audio CDs Listen while reading/looking at

Whispers Pass an action message round the circle. The last one to receive
the message has to perform the action.

Listen and color/draw Tell participants how to color/draw a
picture, either live or via a recording. Take turns.

Twenty questions Hide something in a box (actual
thing/picture of it/just the word). Take turns asking yes/no questions to
discover what it is. Try to guess what’s hidden in 20 questions.

Hot-seating One person chooses to be a particular
story character and sits in the ‘hot seat’. The others ask questions to
discover the identity of the character. This works well for all ages, from
Little Red Riding Hood to Romeo.

Picture Memory Look carefully at a picture in a picture book/magazine for one
minute. Take the picture away. Try to remember everything you can about the
picture. The one not remembering can ask questions. Take turns.

Play board games Board games are great ways to teach
following directions. They also naturally encourage children to pay attention.
Many children follow the action closely to make sure the other players are not
getting too far ahead! My note: Some kids have a really hard time paying
attention during board games. I learned that holding on to the
cards/spinner/dice and just handing them to the next player helped avoid the
constant “Your turn.” prompt.

Nursery rhymes and
 Encourage your
child to memorize simple, familiar rhymes and songs. Start with easier ones,
such as “Jack and Jill.” Later, move on to those with verses, such as “Old
MacDonald.” A Mother Goose book from the library can help with this.

Praise the work Not all positive reinforcement is as
positive as we’d like. Numerous studies have shown that children who are
praised for their work ethic are better at solving critical thinking problems
than those praised for their ability. Praise all efforts to master attention.

Use the TV to channel
critical thinking
 Try muting the commercials and asking your child
simple questions while she watches TV. What just happened? What do you
think about that?
 These questions can be helpful in teaching children
to effectively pay attention, think critically and communicate. However, don’t
go crazy with this!

Encourage physical
 Physical activity
helps children sustain their attention when it’s needed. Doodling, squeezing a
ball, rolling clay, tapping a pencil, or moving to a rocking chair can be
helpful activities.


RESOURCES USED (and recommended!)

Teaching Expertise

Family Education This site has Attention Training Games. I
haven’t tried them but they look like they could be fun.

School Family

Great Schools



The next 2 parent posts
will be devoted to Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder. If you have questions and comments, please add them to the Comments


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