25 Attention-Grabbers for Young Children
Updated: Apr 23
It’s hard to get children to listen to every word you say during the day. But if you creatively grab their attention, they are more likely to respond to stimulus, stay on task, and retain new information that comes their way. With these attention grabbers, they might actually focus on you and what you are saying.
Dress up! Wear a mask, cape, face paint, headdress, silly hat, funny glasses, or a costume. Using humor and theatrics will spark the curiosity of any age child.
Use your talents. This includes magic tricks, imitating characters, playing spoons, drawing caricatures, making balloon animals, yoga poses, yodeling, etc. Even the simplest talent will fascinate kids.
Introduce an interesting prop like a puppet, stuffed animal, unusual item, or electronic gadget.
Take something apart. Bring something in from the house or look for something at the swap meet that is related to the subject matter. Show the children how it works and then take it apart. Try an old clock, cassette, or coin sorter.
Compose! Surprise children by playing an instrument. Demonstrate how to play and the different sounds it makes.
Advertise what you’re about to do. Give children thought-provoking clues and ask for predictions with open-ended questions. “Why do you think it looks like this?”
Riddle me not! Put an item out-of-place. Draw a shape, number, or letter in the air and ask the children to guess what you’ve drawn. Show a picture and ask children to interpret what is happening. Draw clues on the board. Hide the number 3 somewhere outside. Play charades!
Guess what’s there? This is a version of “pick-a-pocket.” Ask the children to blindly feel inside the bag or box and guess what’s in there. Direct them to reach into the pocket of an apron and pick a card that will show a clue about the next activity.
Announce what children will learn in a fantastical way. “Tomorrow we will discover the MAGIC of shapes!” “This afternoon the amazing Waldo is coming to visit.” “Today we are going to make a rainbow out of chalk.”
Take the stage! Read a new story, sing a song, produce a finger play, or tell a felt story that relates to what children will learn. Play an interactive song from your music library the children can move to.
Behave contrary to the norm. Walk backward/sideways/like a robot, sit on the floor, add movement to descriptions, speak in an odd voice, measure with something ridiculous, look in odd places.
Make deliberate errors. Make ridiculous mistakes. Let the children catch them and show you how to do things right.
Mellow out! Turn the lights off, whisper, or turn the music down so low the children can barely hear it.
Take five! Sensory overload can have adverse effects. Set time aside for a little quiet meditation. Direct children to sit or lay quietly with their eyes closed. Shake a high pitched wind chime or swirl around a singing bowl while children touch their thumbs to each finger when prompted to do so. Slowly and deeply breathe in and out to the count of 5 as they count each finger. Lay on the grass and take deep breaths while watching clouds come and go. There are many meditation techniques. Find one that works for you.
Practice listening! Play sound effects or animal noises. See if the children recognize their source. “Which is closest to you/far away?” "Which is higher/lower?" “Which is louder/softer?”
Stop all together! Consider the popularity of suspenseful dance/freeze activities. Begin to say something really interesting, and then pause in mid-sentence. Walk with the children, then stop and FREEZE out of nowhere.
Set a timer. Setting a simple kitchen timer or ringing a bell reminds children that there is no time to goof off. Demonstrate what they will be doing and inform them how long they’ll be doing it. It keeps them focused on the task at hand and helps them practice attentive behavior.
Call and response. Teach children a verbal chant to which the children respond. You say the first line, and they shout the 2nd line. Make up your own. “Timber!” -“Wolves!” “Smithville bees say…” - “Buzz, buzz!” “Ready to rock? - Ready to roll.” “1, 2, 3…! - Lift off!” “Giants see!”-“Giants do!” “Knock! Knock! – We’re here!” “Think twice.”- “Be nice.” “Hakuna” - “Matata!”
Play responder games. Teach children a series of moves or a clapping rhythmical pattern like clap-clap-pat-pat they repeat back to you when prompted. The complete the moves without a sound. Direct them to respond to your commands in a unique way. “If you can hear me, clap one time. Two times. Three times…” “If you are wearing red, pat your head. Blue, stomp your shoes.” “If you are quiet, shake your hips.”
Make a storyboard! Begin a story and direct the children to create alternate endings. Change “Five Little Ducks” to “Five Perfect Squares.” Start telling a story and let the children fill in the blanks along the way. Draw something with chalk on the playground and challenge them to make a story. Better yet, ask the children to draw images and connect the images together to make up a silly story. (See CHALK IT UP! Activity guide for over 180 outdoor chalk ideas. ISBN 10: 0979961297)
Make art! Find an artistic way to present something to the children. Serve a healthy snack in the shape of a face with features. Make the number seven out of colorful shoelaces. Line the sides of a square with colorful rocks and pinecones. Frame their faces with hollow shapes. Take digital photos and show the children how they look.
Work together. Encourage children to team up and complete a task. It’s much more fun to work together than alone. Children learn from each other, get different perspectives, and learn important social skills like how to compromise, share tools, and wait their turn.
Remove distractions. Some children find it difficult to focus when there are visual and auditory distractions and clutter in their workspace, or even out the window. Remove anything that doesn’t need to be in or around the work space. Erase unnecessary writing on the board. Turn off cell phone notifications.
Chop! Chop! Break tasks up into smaller pieces with breaks in-between. Sometimes a large project can be too overwhelming.
Map it out! Show children the task using pictures in sequential order and map out what they are to do. Use photos from magazines, printed from online, or line up picture books from your library with various activities on the covers, if you have them. Post the pictures so they can come back and use them as a reference should they forget. “What’s next?”
Get to know the children in you are working with and relate content to what they know and experience every day. Understand the best way to achieve positive outcomes based on temperament, cultural background, language, rate of development, and learning style. Remember that some children need to look at what you are doing, some will respond to what you say better than what they see, and most will need to physically experience the information in some way before it becomes concrete. You can talk about a dinosaur for 20 minutes, or you can act like one, make a dinosaur puppet show, or take them on a field trip to touch bones and see how big they really were.
Share your story. Have you used any of these methods to attract the attention of children in your care or class? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience.
Angela Russ is a mom-preneur, children’s author, interactive trainer on the subject of early childhood, and award-winning artist/producer of music for young children. She presents educational strategies to child care providers, parents, and teachers nationwide for AEYCs, R & Rs, and the like. She is a member of the Recording Academy and is the sole owner of the Russ InVision record label. For more information on Angela, her workshops and accomplishments you are welcome to visit www.abridgeclub.com. © 2017, Russ InVision. All rights reserved.
For information: Contact: Angela Russ Phone: 562-421-1836 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org