Does your toddler seem to have the attention span of a puppy? Do instructions go in one ear and out the other? Don’t worry, this is common. Following directions or even focusing on one task for any length of time is a common obstacle for this age group.
It is normal for a child to lose interest while you are reading a picture book, or do the exact opposite of what you asked her to do. But, there are ways to help your child increase focus and learn to stay on task. What better way to work on this very necessary skill than to play games.
Search and destroy short attention span
Treasure hunting is intriguing for kids of all ages, even easily distracted three year olds. The great part of this activity is that you do not have to prepare. Simply send your child on a search for something in particular, a red cup, or the stuffed bunny. You can engage in a fun game of I Spy, or Hot and Cold without even moving your desk chair!
Of course you can hide a special treat for your child to search for; this is a great way to take advantage of extra Halloween candy. While your child is searching, call out clues or instructions to help her find the object. Without realizing it, your child’s attention span is growing.
Use props to gain attention
Kids who won’t sit still long enough to listen to your instructions may be mesmerized by a puppet sharing the same information. The puppet doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, my father in law used his hand to speak to his kids at times when he needed their attention fast. The key to making this work is to make it believable; change your voice and treat the puppet as a completely different individual.
Increase listening skills
Teach your child simple songs to help increase their listening skills. If you do not remember any, check out a video from the library, or make up your own complete with hand motions. A child who can remember an interactive song is one who is greatly increasing their listening skills.
In the spotlight
Two flashlights and a dark room are all you need to help your child learn to wait for instructions. Sitting next to your child, shine your flashlight on an object in the room and then have your child shine their light on the same object. Take turns finding things to put in the spotlight, or copy a pattern on the wall. This was my son’s favorite bedtime activity. I would draw a circle with my flashlight, and then he would try to do the same.
Set up a dance floor, also known as a piece of poster board. Have your child stand in the center and wait for you to call out instructions. Tell her to jump back one hop, or step to the corner. You can use a marker to designate each corner, like a miniature version of the game “Twister.”
More by Sylvie Branch:
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