Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Looking at Attention Issues: Tips and Activities for Promoting Attention Skills

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 5-part series on attention issues. Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 were originally posted last August, with some modifications. 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: Making the ADD / ADHD Diagnosis
Part 4: Finding Treatment for ADD / ADHD
Part 5: Resources for Attention Issues

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 times:
  • when I’m worried
  • when something is really interesting, other than the task at hand
  • when there’s distracting music or background noise
  • when I’m bored
  • 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 ways some 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. Important: make activities family activities. That is, whenever possible, take turns so every participant is in the teacher role and in the learner role.  
  1. 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.
  2. Listen to sounds on a CD – there are commercial materials available, or you can make your own. Listen to a sound and do a specific activity.
  3. Sound walk – listen for different sounds as you go on a walk. Use these to paint a picture or write a story or poem.
  4. Simon says – listen carefully for specific instructions and then do the actions.
  5. Audio CDs – listen while reading/looking at illustrations.
  6. Whispers – pass an action message round the circle. The last one to receive the message has to perform the action.
  7. Listen and color/draw – tell participants how to color/draw a picture, either live or via a recording.
  8. Twenty questions – Hide something in a box (actual/picture/word). Take turns asking yes/no questions to discover what it is. Try to guess what’s hidden in 20 questions.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Nursery rhymes and songs 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.
  13. 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 ability. Praise all efforts to master attention.
  14. 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!
  15. Encourage physical activity. 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!)
Family Education This site has Attention Training Games. I haven’t tried them.

The next 4 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 Box.

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