Back to school is approaching and parent’s will begin to worry about their kids staying focused and paying attention to schoolwork. Although we cannot always allow them to be playing, games with rules or some structure can help children practice with self-regulation skills such as working memory, inhibitory control, or cognitive flexibility.
Starting with games that have a physical activity component is a simple way that can help strengthen children’s self-regulation skills. Gradually build on the complexity by adding rules, variations, or challenges such as listening and remembering instructions, paying attention to learning the rules of the games, or resisting the urge to run about and knowing when to stop and go during playtime.
Below are four game ideas to help boost attention and focus for kids!
1. Red Light-Green Light
Start with the known cues for red meaning to stop and green meaning to go. Switch it up with different colours or try using shapes or sounds to represent the different actions. For an even greater challenge, you can use the opposite colours for a different meaning; red allows you to go, while the colour green means you have to stop.
2. Conducting an Orchestra
Instead of dancing along to music, have the child play a musical instrument. It can be real or they can pretend to play with their instrument of choice. Have them follow the conductor with the baton. If the baton is up and waving, they can play their instrument. If the baton is down, they must learn to stop.
3. Animal Stampede
A listen and respond type of game, the leader must ask “What is that I hear?” and “Are they close or far away?”. The children respond by making noise according to the distance their animal of choice.
If the elephants are far away, the children begin quietly stamping their feet to mimic the sound of the elephants in the distance. The closer the animal arrives, the louder the stamping of feet gets and in addition they can add on elephant trumpeting sounds. If the elephants are going away, the stamping of feet softens.
For a challenge, you can add on different animals at the same time. “The elephants are getting closer, but the monkeys are going away”.
4. Follow the Beat
Use drum beats to represent different actions that children can do. For example, if the drumbeats are fast, they can do jumping jacks. If the drumbeats are slow, they can stomp their feet. Mix it up with variations of actions they can do either sitting down, or while moving around the room.