5 Fun Activities to Increase Children’s Attending

Sustaining attention is one of the most crucial factors to improve learning efficiency. Parents are often concerned when their children fail to stay focused in a task or being easily distracted while completing a task. Due to the covid situation, many students have to learn through online platforms, which could be even more challenging for young children with weak learning-how-to-learn skills.

Below are 5 fun games that parents can play with their children to help improve their attending.

1. Retrieval Fluency

      1. First, identify the toys or activities the child likes. For example: painting, playdoh, marble maze, etc.
      2. Disassemble the toy/activity, and put all the required pieces on the table.
      3. Instruct the child to retreive each item (E.g., “Get me the marbles”, “Find me the (red) tube”, etc.) When he retrieves all the objects on the table, he can then get access to the activity.
      4. The child needs to pay great effort in following all instructions within the segment, meaning the child needs to retrieve each item quickly and accurately.

Teaching Tips:

If the child is distracted or starts to engage in self-stimulatory behavior in one of the trials, all objects (Including the ones that have already been retrieved) will go back to the table and we will have to restart the entire segment. For children who are not familiar with the names of the items, you can perform the task in a matching format, which you show the child the picture of the item that you want your child to get as you issue the instruction.

2. Treasure Hunt (Tracking Objects)

      1. First, identify the toys or activities the child likes. For example: painting, playdoh, marble maze, etc.
      2. Disassemble the toys/activities, and hide the pieces one by one in front of the child.
      3. Then, after hiding each piece of toys, instruct the child to find it. Based on your child’s performance, you can extend the duration of hiding the objects.

Activity extension:

You may increase the difficulty by hiding all the pieces all at once; this will challenge your child further more as he/she needs to sustain longer attention and memory. After finding all the pieces, he can get access to the activity.

3. Memory Game

  1. The way to play is the same as the traditional memory game. According to the child’s ability, you can adjust the differences in each memory game card. E.g. the more different the cards are, the easier for the child to remember and distinguish the difference.
  2. For children who are new to this game, you can choose pictures of people/objects that they are familiar with. For example: family members, favorite toys, daily items, etc.

Activity extension:

A more advanced version could be involving more pictures and pictures with more minor differences , such as the same character doing different actions (E.g. Mommy is brushing teeth vs. Mommy is cutting carrots) or different characters doing the same action (e.g.: Mommy is sleeping vs. Grandma is sleeping etc.).

4. What is missing?

  1. This is a very interesting game. First, place three objects on the table and have the child comment on those objects one by one.
  2. Then, cover all the objects with a small white board, and say the magic spell aloud with the child: “Abracadabra!”
  3. While saying the magic spell, take away one of the objects, followed by removing the small white board, and ask the child: “What’s missing?”
  4. And have the child respond. If needed, you may show the object that you have taken away to evaluate with him whether the answer is correct after the child responds.

Activity extension:

Depending on your child’s performance, you can increase the number of objects in the field or the number of objects being taken away.


5. Shell Game

  1. Place three cups upside down on the table.
  2. Hide the reinforcer (e.g. a snack/a small picture that indicates a reinforcer) in one of the cups in front of the child, and havethe child find the reinforcer.
  3. When the child understands the contingency, start to move the cup(s) around, and have the child look for the reinforcer.

Activity extension:

According to your child’s performance, you can extend the time as you move the cups around and/or increase the number of cups.

These are some of the fun games that we often play in our office to help our child with attending. For more in-depth and detailed training videos, please visit the resource website of Autism Partnership(APSPARKS.COM)!

Christy Lai

Behavioral Consultant

Information provided by:

Ms. Christy Lai is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis from St. Cloud State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Ms. Lai joined Autism Partnership (AP) in 2011 and she has extensive experience in working with children with ASD. Ms. Christy Lai currently take lead of the case supervision in the new established AP Beijing center. At the same time, she oversees the Little Learners program in Hong Kong and Shanghai and consults families in Asia. She directs overseas training to staff in the Train the Trainer program and provides parent education to families with children with ASD. She also conducts Jumpstart and PIIP programs locally and internationally. In additions, she is keen to take part in overseas ASD conferences and take lead of the design and production of AP teaching materials. Moreover, she helps with producing ABA training videos and articles in the APSPARKS website for public education.

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