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Paying attention

Some children have difficulty focusing at home and school, making it much harder for them to learn. You might notice:

  • Lots of incessant talking
  • Lots of movement or fidgeting
  • They’re sluggish or slumping in their chair

You can help improve their focus by making small changes to their environment and activities.

Movement breaks whenever they appear sluggish or figity, and before and after sitting activities:

  • Marching on the spot
  • Arm windmills
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Jumping up and down
  • Chair push-ups
  • Regular changes of position
  • Encourage younger children to march from one activity to another. The motion and energy they use can help to focus them
  • Running errands
  • Carrying books
  • Stacking chairs
  • Animal walks (weight bearing)
  • Sensory circuit
  • Push/pull activities
  • Use of playground equipment e.g. monkey bars, climbing frame
  • Also visit the sensory processing page for more advice

Calming activities to help focus:

If your child is struggling to stay focused, try these activities to help them focus:

  • Placing your hands on their shoulders or head with safe, firm pressure to help them slow down
  • Giving them chewy or crunchy food to help them focus and organise themselves. This can help them stay calm and focus during school work too
  • Giving them a thick drink, like a smoothie or yoghurt, to drink through a straw or sports bottle to help them calm down
  • Allowing them to fiddle with a small object, like an eraser or paperclip, to help keep them focused during listening activities
  • Wrap up in blanket (hotdog game)
  • Squash with bean bags or cushions
  • Encourage engagement in a fine motor activity eg: doing a puzzle, threading beads
  • Breathing exercises
  • Time in a quite space or den to reduce sensory input
  • Theraputty
  • Deep pressure (massage)
  • Listening to calming music
  • Gentle rocking

Changes to the environment to help focus:

  • Check that there’s enough natural light
  • Check for bright, reflective colours in the room as these can be distracting
  • Make sure the room or desk is clutter free and tidy
  • Check the room temperature and make sure there is fresh air circulating
  • Keep distracting noise to a minimum although background music can sometimes be helpful
  • Prompt them to keep eye contact with the person they’re talking or listening to
  • Make sure you’re changing your tone of voice to keep their attention when they’re listening
  • Seating – check positioning, size of furniture, position in class, try a move n sit cushion
  • Use clear concise language and instructions.

If you’ve tried all of these techniques and you’re still not seeing any improvement after four months, do speak to your health visitor or GP.