One Simple Trick to Help Kids Pay Attention

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.

Try this simple trick to help kids pay attention with a movement strategy



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
Other chores

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.

Help kids pay attention with an easy visualization strategy

Looking for more tricks and tips for attention problems?  Try these:

Attention and behavior and meal time problems, use these tricks to help kids with independence during meals.Use this gift guide to help kids who need tools and toys to help with attention and focus in the classroom, school, or at home.Sensory Processing components and considerations for the disorganized and inattentive child.  This site contains lots of attention and organization strategies for kids with sensory processing disorders from an Occupational Therapist.Try these sensory movement activites and exercises for helping kids learn to pay attention.  Easy ball therapy exercises using proprioception and core muscle strengthening with a frugal and easy alternative to a therapy ball.  Occupational Therapy tips for kids.




More tools for addressing attention needs in kids

There are so many strategies to address attention in kids and activities that can help address attention needs. One tactic that can be a big help is analyzing precursors to behaviors related to attention and addressing underlying needs. 

The Attention and Sensory Workbook can be a way to do just that. 

The Attention and Sensory Workbook is a free printable resource for parents, teachers, and therapists. It is a printable workbook and includes so much information on the connection between attention and sensory needs. 

Here’s what you can find in the Attention and Sensory Workbook: 

  • Includes information on boosting attention through the senses
  • Discusses how sensory and learning are connected
  • Provides movement and sensory motor activity ideas
  • Includes workbook pages for creating movement and sensory strategies to improve attention

little more about the Attention and Sensory Workbook: 

Sensory processing is the ability to register, screen, organize, and interpret information from our senses and the environment. This process allows us to filter out some unnecessary information so that we can attend to what is important. Kids with sensory challenges often time have difficulty with attention as a result.

It’s been found that there is a co-morbidity of 40-60% of ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. This workbook is an actionable guide to help teachers, therapists, and parents to help kids boost attention and focus in the classroom by mastering sensory processing needs. 

You will find information on the sensory system and how it impacts attention and learning. There are step-by-step strategies for improving focus, and sensory-based tips and tricks that will benefit the whole classroom.

The workbook provides tactics to address attention and sensory processing as a combined strategy and overall function. There are charts for activities, forms for assessment of impact, workbook pages for accommodations, and sensory strategy forms.
Grab the Attention and Sensory Workbook below.
Attention and sensory workbook activities for improving attention in kids

FREE Attention & Sensory Workbook

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    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to


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