Tag: Kindergarten

6 Simple Tips to Improve Attention Spans for Kids

6 Simple Tips to Improve Attention Spans for Kids

Imagine this:

Your four-year-old wakes up in the morning, cheerful and ready to start the day. He eats his breakfast in a reasonable amount of time. Then he gets dressed and puts on his shoes without reminders from you! You leave the house five minutes earlier than you had planned and have time to drive-through your favorite coffee place for a little treat.

When you get home in the afternoon, he joins you at the table for a fun learning activity or craft project. He listens well, follows directions, and excitedly engages with you for 20 minutes. Once you’ve cleaned up together, he runs off to his room to play with his LEGOs for another 40 minutes while you get dinner started.

Sound impossible?

While I certainly can’t promise it’ll happen every day, I can give you some simple tips to improve attention spans at your house and make life a little more peaceful!

Image of child riding a bike with text overlay: 6 tips to improve attention spans for kids!

Improving attention spans in young children is not hard, but it does require intentional parenting choices.

  • Model it Ourselves

Let’s get real with each other. When was the last time you focused on any one thing for more than 20 minutes without your mind wandering? I’ll be honest! I am very easily distracted, especially with my phone nearby. It’s so easy to click on that new notification or scroll Instagram!

And yet, we get frustrated with our children when they bounce from activity to activity! If we’re going to help our kids improve their attention spans, we need to be more mindful of our multi-tasking when they are in the room.

Commit to one 15-minute block each hour where you put the phone down (or whatever distracts you) and do just one thing. Take a walk, read a chapter of a book, or play a game with your kids!

  • Simplify the Environment

In order to improve attention spans, we need to remove unnecessary distractions. If your child is struggling, set up a “quiet space”: maybe the kitchen table or a desk in the living room. Make sure this workstation doesn’t have extra noise, screens, or toys that might draw attention. You can add a privacy screen or noise-cancelling headphones for children who are very easily distracted.  

(Note: some children actually find it easier to pay attention with background noise, a chair that moves, or some type of fidget tool. Try different things to see what works best for your child!)

For young children, set out a blanket or sheet in the middle of the room with the one activity you want them to focus on. We used to do “tot trays” right after nap time, and our little one knew that a fun new learning activity would be waiting in the same place for her each day.


Grey banner with small blue bowl of red and blue pom poms.

Click here for simple learning activities for toddlers and preschoolers.


  • Make it Easier

When I polled our online community about this topic, the most common concern was children who couldn’t sit still for homework or meals. Too often, we put young children in adult-size chairs at home, which is neither comfortable nor age-appropriate. Consider investing in a child-size table & chair set or setting up a footrest (or empty box) for your children so their legs don’t dangle uncomfortably.

Be sure to prepare for wiggles by allowing your children to MOVE their bodies before and after sitting. Jumping jacks, dance parties, and tickle fights are all fun ways to expel some energy!  

  • Build Stamina Slowly

Keep in mind that attention spans can be strengthened with just a little bit of practice every day. Just like we don’t expect our children to hop on a two-wheeler and ride a mile without any experience, neither should we expect focus and persistence to come naturally. Start small, and watch your child soar with a little bit of hard work and positive reinforcement!

  • Set Boundaries and Routines for Screen Time

There are so many fun and educational things to see and do on the T.V., tablet, or computer! I am a big fan of screen time, but in healthy moderation. In our house, we often start our day with outside time, followed by free play and quiet time/reading. Most of our screen time happens in the late afternoon, when we all need a little break.

Set a time during the day when your kids CAN watch screens (if you allow that sort of thing), and declare the rest of the day screen-free! After a while, your kids might not even ask for screen time because they are having such a fun time doing something else.

These six tips should give you lots of simple activities to improve attention spans in your family. I would love to hear (in the comments) which of these tips you’ll be trying first!


Interested in learning MORE about age-appropriate expectations for our young children? Be sure to check out our best-selling parent workshop: Age-Appropriate Learning!

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Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin

Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin

Are you looking for a fun Valentine’s Day activity for your kids that doesn’t require glue or glitter? I learned a long time ago that I am not a crafty mom, but I am more than willing to set up open-ended play ideas for my kids! Sensory play has been a wonderful way for our girls to explore new tactile materials over the years. This simple Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin combines smooth textures and lots of opportunities for fine motor play and math discovery.

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(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you.You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

As I mentioned in this post about sensory bin storage, we keep a big basket down in our basement with all of our sensory bin materials: dried corn, peas, and beans, uncooked popcorn, and various shades of rice and noodles. (You can click here for instant access to our favorite tutorials about dyeing rice and noodles.) 

I’m usually not a big fan of using rice because cleanup can be a giant pain. However, the varied colors in this Valentine’s Day sensory bin make it worth it! For this sensory filler, I left 1/3 of the rice white, and split the rest into two colors: pink and red. The best part of using colored rice is adding fun accessories like funnels and jars. The sound of rice filling up a glass jar is a wonderful sensory experience for all ages!

Valentine's Day Sensory Bin | activity ideas for kids, fine motor, colored rice, simple Valentine's activities, smart play ideas for preschoolers, fun sensory play, tactile activities, sensory bin fillers, learning through play

You can extend the play of this Valentine’s Day sensory bin by changing out the accessories every week or so. We love using heart gems from dollar stores and ice cube trays to practice one-to-one correspondence (counting). We also have gathered these items:

  • red cups (these are our favorite)
  • heart-shaped cookie cutters (we have had these for years)
  • and a stainless steel bowl, funnel, and jar (glass or plastic, whatever your kids can handle)

You can also add magnetic letters or small heart-shaped foam stickers with letters written on them (see video below) for a literacy activity.

If you try this Valentine’s Day sensory bin, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


Get four more Valentine’s Day activity ideas to help your child build attention span and independent play skills.

Just add your information below to get instant access to our FREE Valentine’s Day Invitations to Play download!

Best Books for New Readers

Best Books for New Readers

Not too long ago, a friend reached out to me for some new book recommendations. Her oldest daughter is getting ready for Kindergarten, and she wants to be sure that their family library has a variety of books for new readers. As parents, we often hear a lot about books for babies and great books for reading aloud, but finding “just right” readers for our five and six year olds that aren’t boring or dry can be tricky.

Note: I strongly believe we should continue reading to our children long after they become readers themselves. There are lots of beautiful picture books for older children, so don’t be too quick to rush into chapter books exclusively!

Best Books for New Readers | best books for kids, reading lists, recommended books, early readers, learning to read, printable list, free download

Children who are learning to read have lots of internal motivation…at first. As parents, our goal is to make sure that our children have access to humorous, high-interest books. You know, books that our children actually want to read. Keep in mind that some children will LOVE stories, while others will be drawn to non-fiction or how-to books. (One of my students, a reluctant reader, fell in love with joke books during third grade. He read every humor book the library had on the shelf before moving on to higher-quality literature in his fourth grade year.)

As the mom of a new reader myself, I try to keep a healthy balance between “easy reader” books and higher quality literature for my 1st grader. Honestly, I see it as being similar to checking out a Nicholas Sparks book and a classic by one of the Bronte sisters for myself. Sometimes, it’s nice to kick back with an easy “beach read.” Good readers read a lot, so new readers need lots of books to choose from.

Organizing Books for New Readers

Our home library used to be organized by author’s last name, similar to the public library. Once my youngest became an independent reader, I reorganized the shelves by reading level. It was a lot of work at first, but I’ve seen her confidence grow. It’s nice that she can quickly find a book that she wants to read from a tub of books she knows she can read. Scholastic has a Book Wizard tool that makes leveling most books a cinch!

Best Books for New Readers | best books for kids, reading lists, recommended books, early readers, learning to read, printable list, free download

Best Books for New Readers

This is not an exhaustive list, and your children might find other books they prefer! Hopefully it will give you a good starting place when you go into the library or book store. If you would like a printable copy of the list (with even more book ideas!), just fill out the form below. It will arrive in your inbox immediately.

(Just a reminder that Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links, at no additional cost to you. You can read our full disclosure policy here.)

Maisy books by Lucy Cousins

We read a LOT of Maisy when our girls were younger. There are lots of titles available, and the text is usually simple and silly.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (and sequels) by Doreen Cronin

 

I believe strongly in the power of humor to keep new readers motivated. If your child doesn’t know the Click Clack series, add these to your library list!

Fairmount Avenue series by Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola is incredible. I adore all of his books (and there are LOTS), but this sweet autobiographical series is a must-have for new readers. Tomie’s childhood is laugh-out-loud funny and sweet.

mouse books by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum and Owen are our two favorites, but Lilly’s adventures are fun, too! Kevin Henkes knows how to write for children, so you can’t really go wrong with any of his books.

Pete the Cat books by Eric Litwin

When Pete the Cat first arrived in bookstores and libraries, children and adults alike were smitten. For some reason, James Dean (the creator of Pete) and Eric Litwin (the original author) have split ways and the newer books aren’t as memorable or fun to read. I Love My White Shoes and Four Groovy Buttons are great!

Everything written by Leo Lionni

Lionni is a gifted artist, and most of his books feature animals, a sure kid-pleaser. Little Blue and LIttle Yellow is different from most of his books, which oddly makes it my favorite. A Color of His Own and Swimmy are other beloved books in our house.

Frog and Toad collection by Arnold Lobel

I remember reading these books as a child, and I love sharing them with my own girls.

Anne Rockwell

As I mentioned above, my second daughter much prefers non-fiction books. Anne Rockwell’s stories are a good balance–lots of facts and simple illustrations! These two were big hits in our family.

Henry and Mudge books by Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant is a fantastic author for new readers. Henry and Mudge is one of two series she’s written that I often recommend for young children. What’s better than a series of early reader books featuring a boy and his dog? (P.S. When I Was Young in the Mountains is one of my favorite picture books of all time!)

Mr. Putter and Tabby books by Cynthia Rylant

This is another sweet series of books for new readers. Try the first two books from the library and see if your family enjoys the characters.

Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems

Mo Willems has been a favorite author of mine since Knuffle Bunny came out. The Elephant & Piggie series is laugh out loud funny, while still talking about some of the BIG feelings that our new readers struggle with. Best of all, there are lots of choices to keep your kiddo giggling.

What are your favorite books for new readers?


Best Books for New Readers | best books for kids, reading lists, recommended books, early readers, learning to read, printable list, free download

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