We’ve got several attention strategies on the blog that help kids with attention and focus difficulties. Modifying the environment or reducing demands are tools that can help many kids pay attention in different contexts. However, sometimes it’s not possible to adjust the external factors involved in paying attention. It’s then that internal strategies must succeed on their own.
When kids have trouble with executive functioning skills, the internal ability to filter out unnecessary information, maintain focus, and use that information with appropriate working memory interfere with functional abilities in the classroom or learning.
Try this simple trick to help kids pay attention by using an internal strategy that can be used on it’s own or in conjunction with external supports like desk dividers, checklists, reduced information, and other attention building modifications.
Simple Trick to Help Kids Pay Attention
Much research has been done linking movement to attention. So, if space, time, and context allows, a simple stretch or gross motor movement break is a big help for building attention.
If the opportunity to get up and move is not possible, try this trick:
Kids can often times become overwhelmed by the perceived size of a long reading assignment or multiple page test. The feeling of anxiety can interfere with focus. Breaking the task down into smaller chunks can ease that feeling of anxiety.
Visualize a Karate Chop to Help with Attention
Break down a task into smaller pieces with a CHOP! The visual image of a karate kick or karate chop can help kids see their assignment or big task in smaller chunks.
When presented with a big task such as a 6 page unit test, teach kids to visualize each page as a small part. They can work their way through the first page or section. At the end of that first page, they can close their eyes, visualize themselves doing a big jumping, karate CHOP with a kick and arm motion. Ask them to take a deep breath and know that that first chunk is done! Then, they can move on to the next page or section.
The ability to visualize each separate part of a larger task is just one strategy that can help kids pay attention and use strategies on their own.
In order to use this strategy successfully, kids will need to visually break big tasks into smaller pieces. They will need to maintain motivation and working memory to use this tool in functional tasks.
It can be fun to practice the Karate CHOP trick though. Just seeing Mom or Teacher showing them how to use this tool can be funny enough to remember it during a big job.
What sort of tasks would this attention-building trick work with?
Cleaning a bedroom
Picking up toys
How can your child use this attention strategy?
Executive functions are heavily dependent on attention. Read about the attention and executive functioning skill connection and the impact of attention on each of the executive functioning skills that children require and use every day.
Looking for more tricks and tips for attention problems? Try these:
Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to email@example.com.