Most children see play time as the best part of their day. Unfortunately, with schoolwork, loaded schedules and the lure of the screen, they can become easily distracted. In some cases, this distractibility could be due to an underlying special need, causing them to lose out on the joyfulness of being fully immersed in the play experience and thereby failing to gain its many benefits.
Through play, kids learn how to interact with others, reach developmental milestones and develop critical lifelong skills.
For tips to help kids focus and make the most out of playtime, I turned to Ellen Metrick, Human Factors Specialist with UL, LLC, where she assesses children’s products through the lens of child development. Metrick offers the following suggestions for parents.
Reduce the stimuli in the room.
If children have too many options, they can become overstimulated by the sights and sounds around them and end up not enjoying any of it because they flit from one activity to the next. Try turning off the TV and any music, and introduce toys or activities one at a time. Maybe play in a room that is free from clutter, busy walls, and crowded spaces, as a simpler space helps children focus on the activity at hand.
Break it up.
Whether it’s a board game or an art project, if it is difficult to get through the whole activity in one sitting try dividing the project into different tasks. For instance, if the child is building a bird house, assembling, sanding, painting, and decorating may be too much for one sitting. Break it up into manageable chunks until the project is complete. This reduces the pressure to do it all at once and avoids feelings of disappointment for having not finished.
Fidget and focus.
Patiently waiting your turn can be tough. If a child is having difficulty, a discreet fidget toy in their pocket can help pass the time as activities like fiddling with small toys can help children self-regulate and stay focused. If sitting still during an entire game is challenging, try removing the chairs and playing while standing around the table. This allows children to shift their weight and provides their bodies with extra joint compression that assists with attention.
Quiet time activity.
Quiet time play is important, but sometimes it’s hard for a child to sit still and focus on what’s in front of them. Try expending some extra energy first by doing a whole-body activity. Jumping on a trampoline and dancing are good options.
Play is a valuable activity through which children can learn about themselves, others and the world around them. By helping children to focus and removing distractions and external stimuli, they can experience the true rewards of a meaningful play experience.