Engaging an Easily Distracted Child

Chances are you either have a child that is easily distracted, or you know one. With action at every turn and so much to do and see, our children are easily distracted and harder to engage these days.

I have some tried and true strategies I use with my easily distracted son. These can be used with any child at home, in the classroom, or really anywhere.

  1. Mission Control, are you there?

Every day tasks are “missions” for my son. I make it fun to get ready for school and complete his daily chores. You can tailor this to your child’s interests. The steps will remain the same.

– First, make sure you have your child’s attention. Get on their level, seek eye contact, gain their attention, or this won’t work.

– Then ask your child if they are ready for their mission, challenge, fairy task, etc.

– With a confirmation, you can begin.

– Input any request here: “Soldier (or Princess), your first mission is to (get your pants on, put away your toys, etc.).”

– Break the mission down into basic and specific steps. Getting dressed and/or cleaning an entire room can seem daunting for an easily distracted child, so start simple: Put on your pants or put away the red toys (or Barbies, cars, etc.). Be specific and direct.


– After each task, the child reports back to you. I always say “Mission Complete” which my son loves. You can then begin the process again if needed. For example, now put on your shirt or put away the blue toys. Continue with mini missions until the entire process is done (i.e.: they are fully dressed, or the room is clean).

You may have to restate your “mission”, but this gets easier with time, and eventually, the “missions” don’t have to be so basic and specific. (i.e.: Now, you may have to give a mission to get their pants on then their shirt. Later, you may be able to give the mission to get dressed.) You can change this into any theme. Make it about your child and their interests for best results.

  1. Make it fun!

If the above tactic won’t work for your child, these also work for us:

– Time your child. You can set the timer on the stove or use a handheld timer. Tell your child they have x minutes to complete the task. Give a 2 minute and 1 minute warning as the time runs out.


– Challenge your child. “I bet I can get my shoes on faster than you can!” (If your child is trying hard but still slow, let them win. Everyone needs to feel accomplished and pride in a job well-done.)

– We call our van the Batmobile, so if we aren’t getting to the car fast enough, I simply say: “Off to the Batmobile” or “Race to the Batmobile”. This gets everyone’s attention. You can coin your car anything that gets their attention and sparks their interest (Fairy Flyer, Super Car, etc.).

– If your child doesn’t want to look for their shoes, call them a detective and set them on their journey to find the “forbidden shoe” or “golden shoe”.

You can make every day life fun by simply incorporating their favorite characters or themes into anything you do. It makes it fun for your child and easier for you. Be silly and creative. Don’t forget: life is all about adventure and fun for kids. Capitalize on this, and have fun in the meantime!

  1. Create incentives.

My boys all have a sticker chart, and for my son who is easily distracted, he earns a sticker for getting dressed without complaining.

If my boys get ready early, they are also able to play on the playground at school.

Once they are dressed with their shoes and backpacks ready, they can also watch tv or go outside until we leave. Find what motivates your child, and use it!


  1. Give grace.

We ALL mess up. Before getting angry at your child, try to discern whether they are truly disobeying you or if they are simply distracted. We all need some grace, so instead of yelling, redirect, unless your child is deliberating disobeying. This is hard I know. When I have little patience, the slow pace kills me. I am learning to slow down and roll with it though.

  1. Give ample amount of time and fair warning.

I give my sons lots of time to get ready in the morning. I know my distracted son needs 15-20 minutes to get fully dressed. I make sure I start him off early. If for whatever reason we don’t have the time, I jump in and help. By giving him time, I’m setting him up for success and reducing our morning stress.

  1. Instead of telling them what to do, ask them what they should be doing.

I am now in the mode of teaching my distracted son life skills, so he can function on his own without constant redirection. For example, today he got out of the car without his homework folder and lunch bag. I asked him: “What are you missing?” It took him a minute, but then he got it. Eventually, he will learn to ask himself these questions internally.

  1. Share with the teacher.

To know my easily distracted son is to love him! He is truly a remarkable kid, full of life and energy, BUT this can exhaust some teachers. We had a preschool teacher that was exasperated by him; I felt like this broke his amazing spirit.

This year to avoid the above, I shared with his teacher some of his tendencies to get distracted. His teacher keeps me abreast of things we need to work on, and she is aware that he is not deliberately ignoring her, he is just easily distracted.


Do you have any strategies that work for you? Please share!

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