A child doesn’t have to be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD in order for you to experience that exasperated feeling when he just won’t pay attention. While this is a common theme and underlying driver for why parents and educators investigate the possibility of something more than an inability to pay attention, there are many more criteria that must be met in order for an accurate diagnosis to be made.
Whether your child has definitively been diagnosed with a condition such as ADD, or you just keep finding yourself begging your child to pay attention or just focus, the following resources and activities can help you and your child develop the tools needed to build attention spans.
Tips and Tools for Building Attention and Focus
As a mom of 4 kids I’ve accumulated more than 50 years of parenting when all of those years of kids are added together – and I’d be ready to retire and buy my own island if I had just a penny for every time I inwardly begged for my children to pay more attention. So when I find great resources that help me build my children’s attention spans and squelch the begging to just please focus, I want to share those ideas with other parents and educators. Building attention and focus skills is sometimes taken for granted as an ability that comes with age. However, there are great ways we can increase the amount of “focus energy” our kids can harness.
1. Attention Games, by Barbara Sher – 101 Fun, Easy Games That Help Kids Learn to Focus
Trickling my finger along the library shelves one day I came across this parenting tool. Broken down by games targeted to age groups infant through teenager, this book is a collection of sensory-rich games and activities. The premise of the book is that if we want to help our children focus their attention, we need to get them interested. Sure – doing chores and listening to our instructions might simply not be interesting to our kids, but by using some engaging attention games we can help them build their capacities for focusing. Each age section lists games by title, and then includes the following:
- A brief description of the game
- A description of the types of attention that are the focus of the game
- Materials needed
- Directions for the game
- Ways to vary the game
- A synopsis of what is being learned
2. Where’s Waldo? – And Other Great Concentration Tools
Books like Where’s Waldo and hidden picture books require kids to concentrate on finding certain characteristics within the page – building those every-important focus skills.
Stock a bin or basket at your house with crossword puzzle books, word searches, Soduku, or any other type of puzzle you can find. For kids who are really struggling with attention spans – steer clear of 1000 piece puzzles, or consider setting up a puzzle table where anyone in the family can stop by and work on finding a few pieces whenever they have time.
4. Sequencing Games
Take any three or more objects and create patterns with them that your kids can recreate – but add in the dimension of timing them to encourage them to stay on task. Everyday household items work well for sequencing, and you can use these games as fillers while you wait for dinner to be ready or before leaving for an activity.
- Plastic spoons and forks
- Buttons (you could create a sequence completely out of buttons, just differentiating by color)
- Small toys like LEGOs or building blocks
Other Tools for Developing Attention Spans
5. Chore charts – Implement these to help your kids stay on track, and keep you from becoming a repeating parrot doling out the same instructions to your child over and over again.
6. Bubble timers – Staying on task is often required in life, and these gentle bubble timers can help kids who struggle with timing issues.
7. Better Directions – Break activities into small chunks of time or smaller levels of responsibility. Yes – it would be wonderful to tell a distracted child to Go clean your room, but you are much more likely to see progress if you instruct him to Put away your laundry, pick up toys from the floor and put them into the toy bins, and replace the books onto the shelves. Breaking tasks down into manageable pieces increases the chances for success and decreases your frustration levels.
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