Attention Games - Excerpt

101 Fun, Easy Games that Help Kids Learn to Focus

Attention Games Excerpt from: Part Three, GAMES FOR 3- to 6-YEAR OLDS


Have you heard the expression, “Show me a bundled-up kid and I’ll show you a cold mother”? It’s a reminder that our experience of the world may be different than that of our young ones. Both you and your child can benefit from being aware that others have different ways of seeing things.

My daughter Roxanne taught me about seeing another’s viewpoint one day when she was about four and in one of those I-never-want-you-out-of-my-sight moods. She would start fussing the moment she couldn’t see me, while her younger sister played happily beside her, never fussing at all. Not to my credit, I got impatient and said, “You’re not letting me get anything done today! Why is it that your younger sister doesn’t cry when I am out of the room and you do?”

“Because,” she patiently explained, “she has someone older with her!”

In this game, we all get a chance to see life from a different perspective. It can be an ant’s or, if you’re in a whimsical mood, that of a tiny sprite.

Types of Attention Encouraged: Open and focused


Sit outside with your little one and ask her to imagine with you that you are both tiny creatures. Look around and decide where a good place to have a home would be. Would you tuck away under the fragrant flowering bush? Or would you rather live under the gnarled tree root? Maybe you might even want to build a little home for yourselves out of rocks piled up just so.

Then look around and decide where would be a good place to play. Are you small enough to slide down that blade of grass? Would climbing up the small twig of the baby tree and then jumping off be more fun? Would you sit under that mushroom for a bit of shade or to get out of the rain?

Where would you find food to eat? What puddle has the cleanest drinking water? Continue until your child tires of the game or wants to pick a different creature to be.


Pick a real creature, such as an ant or a gecko, and imagine all aspects of his life.

What’s Being Learned

Inviting children to imagine life from a different perspective helps them begin to understand that there is more than one way of looking at situations. It expands their ability to have an open view. You might find this works to your advantage the next time you want to reason with your child to do things your way. But then again, maybe you’ll end up seeing her point of view!

ART de deux

Collaboration in the art world is not a new practice, so why not collaborate with your little artist? Make a drawing together, each taking a turn to add a detail.

Types of Attention Encouraged: Open and focused


Start by drawing a person together. You draw a circle for the head and ask your fellow artist to add a body. You add arms, then he adds legs. You add fingers, then he adds toes, and so on.

You can include lots of details, such as patterns on the clothes. Does the dress have polka dots? Stripes?

Draw in the background too. Is there a tree? A house? The sun? Add color to your work by using markers, pens, crayons, or colored pencils.

You can see that this process can stay pretty simple or get fairly involved depending on the skill level and interest of the artists.


Take one piece of paper and fold it into four sections. The first person draws a head and face on the first section and then folds it under so that the other artist can’t see the face that was drawn. The second person now draws an upper body and then folds it in such a way that neither the face nor upper body can be seen. The first artist adds the lower half of the body and then the second adds the feet.

When you’re done, unfold the whole page and enjoy the resulting very mismatched person!

What’s Being Learned

Depending on the age of your child, he can be learning some basic information about body parts and their relationship to each other in the body.

A slightly older child may be working on copying your example and making body parts more realistic, or he may be playing around with capturing movement and expression.

No matter what their age or skill level, children are learning to focus in on the technique of drawing and opening up their imagination.

All are also getting the important message that the grown-ups in their life enjoy spending time with them. This reinforces their sense of themselves as people who are enjoyable to be with.


I was walking along the beach one day when I spied a collection of cairns that were made and left behind. These little towers of balanced rock reminded me of an activity I was doing with a child that morning in which I was trying to help him learn about size. I had given him some measuring cups that fit inside of each other so that he would get firsthand experience of some things being bigger or smaller than others. With measuring cups, no matter how hard you try, a big cup will not fit into a smaller one.

Gathering up a small pile of different-size rocks that were more or less flat, I could see several possible games to play with your little one that will help her begin to notice differences in sizes.

Type of Attention Encouraged: Focused


Have your child try doing these activities with the rocks:


End any of the games by throwing the rocks at a target, such as a larger rock, or by flinging or skipping the rocks into the sea. Or leave your cairns and rock designs for others to come upon. Maybe they will be inspired to make their own, as I had been.

What’s Being Learned

Children are learning to pay attention to size and shape and using the careful concentration that is needed in order to make a cairn.

If they also make a pattern, they are getting an opportunity to be creative and enter the quiet flow that creativity inspires.

If they end the game by throwing the rocks at a target, they are practicing their eye-hand coordination. If they fling them into the sea, they are developing their arm strength. If they learn how to skip a rock, they are developing arm and wrist control. These are all good ways to release any tension built up during the period of intense focusing.

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