Helping kids with attention and focus can be difficult. Presenting games and toys can be frustrating for these kiddos and their parents or teachers when there are underlying reasons for inattention and lack of focus. We’ve shared several posts on attention in the past and wanted to put together a list of great toys and tools that can help with attention and focus for participation in games or other leisure activities, school tasks, and daily skills.
Strengthening the core can have a great effect on helping kids improve attention and focus in the home and in the classroom. Read more about strengthening the core to help improve these skills.
A smaller sized therapy ball like this 9 inch Stability Ball might be a better option for kids who use the balls for floor activities like laying prone on the ball in a superman pose. This is a great core strengthening and vestibular activity that can help with strengthening and sensory needs.
Other smaller sized therapy balls would be more appropriate when the balls are used as a seat to help with attention. Proper positioning is essential for handwriting and reading when seated at a desk. Try this 28 inch therapy ball for younger kids.
A Large Stability Ball is a great tool to have in the home or classroom. Use it for alerting sensory input or as a strengthening tool to build core strength.
Cranium Brain Breaks Game is a great game that allows time for movement during, before, and after learning. Read more about brain breaks and other ways to help kids focus here.
The Peanut Therapy Ball is great for inviting movement and sensory input in a variety of positions. Try this as a seat or to engage core muscles.
Brain Food Putty Squeezing putty provides heavy input through the hands. This can be calming for children and a valuable tool for allow kids to take focus off sensory needs and onto the task at hand. This type of putty comes in a variety of colors.
It is important to remember that every child is different. Just as needs and interests differ, the thing that can capture attention and focus will vastly vary from child to child. Use the interests that your child cares about to improve focus and attention. Try these attention building tips:
Begin by playing one on one with the child in an environment that is free from distractions.
Try playing a game or completing an activity for a short period of time with breaks for movement and gross motor activity. It is not the movements that will boost attention, but rather the break to allow for movement. Coming back to a desk-top or structured activity or game may be easier for kids with attention and focusing issues.
Slowly increase the time spent on a task.
Try games without a lot of rules or classic games that do not have a lot of distracting colors, sounds, and lights. Other children may require toys that light up with sounds and flashes in order to help with attention, based on the use of novel auditory or visual stimuli.
Low-tech attention boosting toys and tools might include:
Checkers is a classic game that can encourage increased time focusing on an end goal. This type of game will certainly not work for all children with attention or focusing difficulties. The limited colors and simple game board can be a benefit for other children, however.
Connect 4 Try playing this game on it’s side to eliminate the need to shift the vision and observe distractions. Use the legs on the game and lay it down on a table surface to have enough slant for the pieces to fall into place. A slight shift might be needed to get the game pieces to fall into place.
Ring Toss is a game that can allow for movement during game play. Try adding weights to wrists or ankles for heavy work input during game play. Position the ring toss game in a corner of a room to eliminate distractions. This type of game is often times an incentive to address leaning concepts such as math, sight words, and spelling.
A Pop and Catch Game is another movement-based way to encourage focus. Kids will need to keep their eyes on the ball as they move their cup to catch it before it hits the ground. This might be a challenge for children with visual motor integration difficulties. Try sitting on the floor, close together. Then, build up to kneeling, moving farther apart, standing, and even sitting in a rolling chair.
Toys to help with Visual Attention
For some kids, the attention concerns arise when there are too many distractions in the child’s visual field. They are unable to pick out the important information. This might occur when a child is trying to find matching socks from a drawer full of unpaired socks. They can not scan and search to find the sock they need and give up. Other kids simply can not filter out unnecessary information in a cluttered scene. These kids wiggle, fidget, and can’t focus in the classroom.
These games and toys may help improve visual attention for improved functional independence:
Spot It requires kids to pull out and match items between two cards. This is a great game for car rides, too!
This Hidden Pictures Scratch Art Book allows kids to scratch out the picture from a puzzle of lines. The bonus for this attention boosting tool is that scratch art is a fine motor strengthening exercise.
Use Hidden Picture Books like these sticker books to help kids pull out visual information from a cluttered page. Using stickers can be motivational for kids.
Mosaic Artwork is a fine motor activity that can help kids visually attend to colors and shapes. Scatter the sticker tiles on a table surface for another visual attention exercise.
Fidget Toys to Help With Attention and Focus
Finally, there is the sensory need that results in inattention. When kids are preoccupied with a sensory over-stimulation or under-stimulation, attention and focus lack. We’ve shared toys and tools that can help to meet sensory needs with fidget toys. Try these ideas for fidget tools for classroom and home use.
The Tangle Jr. Original Fidget Toy will keep fingers and hands busy so kids can concentrate on homework or school work. A ball of play dough or this Pull and Stretch Bounce Ball is a good way to keep kids’ hand occupied as they move with the small motor proprioceptive input. This heavy work for the hands can allow kids to concentrate as they write. The DESK BUDDY is great for kids who are doing homework as it can sit on a table surface or it can be a hand-held sensory fidget toy. A pencil topper like these Pencil Tops Fidget can help kids while they write, and can be fidgeted with on or off the pencil. Try writing with a vibrating pen like this Squiggle Wiggle Writerfor proprioceptive input before a writing homework assignment. THE ULTIMATE FIDGET is a quiet fidget toy that kids can keep in their pocket.
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
A 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.