How Do I Teach My Child to Focus?

Getting Kids to Pay Attention

Yawning child
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If you’re wondering, “How do I teach my child to focus?” you’re probably not alone. Whether your child has a known issue that can affect focus (like ADHD) or is just sort of scattered, it can be frustrating.

Putting Lack of Focus Into Focus

There are a few key things to clarify before you find strategies to help your child be more focused and you can do that by asking the following questions:

  • Could your child’s lack of focus be developmentally appropriate?  Sometimes we expect more from our kids than they are physically and emotionally able to do. Read up on the developmental milestones for your child’s age before you decide he’s less focused than he should be.
  • What do you want your child to be more focused on? If your main concern is that your child isn’t listening to you or paying attention when you’re doing an activity together, you may want to take a look at whether or not you could be contributing to the issue. There are some great to help get kids listening and interacting, such as using the “wait time” trick and varying the volume of your voice.

  • Does your child’s lack of focus show up in all environments? Sometimes parents see behaviors that teachers don’t see and teachers see behaviors that parents don’t see. Or sometimes kids act differently with friends and teammates than they do with adults. If your child’s lack of focus shows up across all activities, it might be an issue. If not, you may want to look more closely at what’s happening at school or at the after school activity.

  • Does your child understand what the expectations are? Sometimes kids seem unfocused because they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. For example, you might think your child understands that you’re singing songs to learn his phone number, when he thinks you’re just playing a silly singing game.

    Once you have a better sense of what’s going on with your child, here are some little games and tricks you can try at home to work on focus.

    Play the “What’s Different?” Game

    The “What’s Different?” game doesn’t require much setup or much time--you can play it a few minutes at a time to help your improve your child’s focus, attention and memory.

    Have your child focus on a specific area of the room for 2 to 3 minutes. Ask him to take a “mental snapshot” of the area and then leave the room.  

    When he leaves the room, remove or relocate a few objects. (For example, put the tissue box behind the couch or turn a picture upside down.)  Call him back and see if he can tell you what’s different in the room. This game encourages your child to pay closer attention to his surroundings.  

    Combine Movement and Memory

    Your child might be having difficulty focusing because the way the information is being presented isn’t capturing her brain’s attention. Making an activity more active can help her brain process the information in more than one way--as verbal or visual information and as a muscle memory.  Try a game like Sight Word Beach Ball Toss in which she has to catch the ball, read a word and say it out loud.  

    Play With Puzzles

    There are all sorts of puzzles you can do with your child, from the tradition 100-piece jigsaw to the more complicated logic puzzles. Whether you’re playing a Portmanteau Word Game in which your child has to manipulate information in his mind or a hands-on puzzle game like , your child has to focus on what he’s learning and what he’s doing.