Tips on teaching highly distractible kids

Sourced from adverturesinmommydom blog


It may surprise you to learn of my kids, the one who struggles most with focus is Princess.  The boys have learned how to focus and get the task done so they can move on to what they WANT to do.

Here’s what teaching Princess is like.

  1. Explain the concept, write out a brilliant thesis, and draw great illustrations, look down and all 3 kids are rolling on the floor.  ROLLING.
  2. Get the kids refocused and back on tract, and reteach the topic, focusing further in and bringing in more movement and participation into the concept.  You have no clue how vital this is.
  3. Assign the independent work, have the kids repeat back what the assignment is.
  4. Send the kids to their desk.  Princess needs to go to the bathroom or get something she forgot.
  5. They start working, I work on cleaning, and look up to see her playing with her ponies.  Refocus Princess.
  6. She gets to working, then starts drawing, and we refocus again.
  7. Repeat variations on this for 20 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile her brothers are done and playing and Princess has completely shut down because she’s not done.



That’s the first thing to figure out.  Why is your child distracted?  I’m still working on this.  Some possible distractions for your kids:find out what distracts your child and help them find strategies

  • Sight- is their learning area too busy?  Are there too many colors or things to see and look at?  I think this is partially Princess’ struggles.
  • Sound- is the area too quiet or too loud?  Some kids need quiet to concentrate, this is Batman.  He needs relative quiet to concentrate.  Others learn better if there is some amount of background noise or music to block out the other noises.  For me I need music of some sort, and I tend to play classical music while we do school work to help me concentrate.  Try with your kids to see if music helps or doesn’t help.  Once you’ve check on music, do they need words or no words?
  • Textures- this is becoming a more common issue, but are they bothered by the feel of their chair, their clothes?  What can you work to control in this area?



  • Limit visual distractions.  We all love the educational posters and visual reminders, but that could be overwhelming for your child, try taking them down, and see if that helps (my daughter needs help for math, but I made her mini office in black and white).
  • Give them a fidget.  Kathy Kuhl defined a fidget as a small toy or item your child can fiddle with to help them concentrate.  Some rules she suggested, it has to be small, it has to help, it has to not distract the teacher (who may be a distractible adult), it has to not make noise.
  • Take breaks, adults benefit from short breaks, so of course our distractible kids will as well, we take a break every 20 minutes.
  • Set timers, I could write a whole post on using timers, but pick up a redline timer, (this is the Time Timer I just got, affiliate link).  This can help them see how much time they have left.
  • Cover up the problems they are not working on.  I think this might help some of Princess’ struggles with math, if she only sees the problem she’s doing.  I know she freaks out less if there is not as much visually there.
  • Have your kids draw how distracted they are throughout the day so you can find their best working time.  Maybe they concentrate best in late afternoon, so plan the hard stuff then.

Find the best time to teach your distractible kid



Just because your child is older doesn’t mean they are suddenly able to concentrate better, I’m certainly proof of this, as it’s taken me 5 different sessions to write this as I just couldn’t concentrate.

  • Teach them how to break a big project down into steps.  As they get older we expect more and they become daunted by the sheer amount of work.
  • Teach them how to use planners and calendars.  Teach your distractible kids this over and over and over again.  Then come back to it from a different way.
  • Look into audio books, this is a great plan for those kids who just don’t concentrate to read, they can draw, exercise, or CLEAN while listening.  I know this is a great motivator for my kids to clean if they can listen to an audio book.
  • Set your own rules.  Don’t just look to the public school rules, look for how you can set your child up for success.


We as parents and teachers tend to get into ruts for presentation.  We sit there and lecture, or watch a video, or draw it out, and the kids don’t see it.  Here’s some suggestions for changing your teaching style for your distractible kids:

Change where you teach your distractible child

  • Be a facilitator, what are they interested in, let them take a topic and run with it.  Provide suggestions, but let your distractible kids take the lead.
  • Include exercise, do jumping jacks while saying math facts.  Write the words on the sidewalk and run to them as you say them.
  • Change where you teach, this isn’t as possible in a public school setting, but for homeschoolers, consider having your lesson at the park, or in the backyard.  Change it up.
  • Take a break and get back to it.  I mentioned this briefly before, but a short break can do wonders for your kids’ ability to concentrate.


If your child is distractible, more than likely it’s inherited from a parent, and quite possibly from Mom.  Many of the same tips that will help your children, will help you.  But here’s a few more tips I learned from this lecture at Great Homeschool Conventions.

  • The same structure that helps our kids, helps us.  If we have a routine (not a schedule) then we know roughly what we should be doing and when.  That can be a life-saver, for us that looks like a block schedule.
  • Discover what your own fidget is, for me its’ handcrafts or taking large amounts of notes.
  • Pray for wisdom, you need to learn when your child is distracted and not focusing correctly, and when they are being disobedient.
  • Model forgiveness, show them you can forgive the mistakes, not everything is a learning opportunity, sometimes you show grace and let it slide.
  • Sticking to the schedule starts the night before.  Know what you want to accomplish AND what you will need.

Resources about the distractible child

I have a long list of books I’m planning on getting after attending this lecture, here’s my to buy list, or general reading list (some of these are affiliate links):

So, I’d highly recommend if you’re going to the California homeschool convention you check out Kathy Kuhl’s talk on distractible kids OR any of her talks.  They were great.  (And thanks to MaryAnne for pointing out I hadn’t finished my sentence)Teachingthehighlydistractedchild