Updated: Feb 16, 2021
A great way to teach your child to wait is by teaching him to take turns. Taking turns is a normal part of life. When a child has finished a piece of work in class, he waits for his turn before his work is checked by the teacher. When older, we wait for a bus and get in, in turns. When we are served food at the table, we wait for our turn to be served. As you can see, it is a simple skill, but one that we use so often.
While attention can be difficult to develop, especially in a child with marked difficulties in this area, teaching it as a turn taking skill, makes it easier to explain to a child and easier for us to measure.
So how do we teach a child to wait for his turn?
Remember to seat yourselves where there are no distractions. Give your child a clear sitting position, especially if you have a 'fidgety' child. If you are working at a table, and he's moving around, remind him to 'put his bottom on his chair'. (Yes, it might sound funny, but it gives him exact instructions on what he needs to do). If you are working on the floor, put a small mat on the floor and remind him to stay on it.
Choose a simple activity, appropriate to the age and ability level of your of your child.
You can choose from any of these activities.
1) Roll a ball: Roll a ball, sitting across from each other. When he gets hold of it, say 'Your turn' and wait for him to roll it to you. When you catch it, say, 'My turn' and then roll it to him.
2) Build a tower: Take a box of bricks. Place one on the table. Then hand him one and say 'Your turn'. Take another brick, say 'My turn' and place it on top. Continue building a tower and then bring it down. Bringing a tower down is also a brilliant attention building activity. Say, 'Ready, steady......go'. Your child can make it crash only when you've said 'Go'.
3) Puzzles: Use form board puzzles with very young children, and jigsaws for older kids. Remove the puzzle pieces and put them into a bag. Take one out, say 'My turn' and put it in. Take another one out, give it to your child and say 'Your turn'. Take turns filling the puzzle.
4) 'Click-clack tracks' and fishing games also work well for this.
5) While sitting and working is an important skill to acquire, you can use movement activities also, if that's what works best with your child. Draw a set of squares on the floor. Say 'My turn' and jump to the next square. Turn and say 'Your turn' and wait for your child to join you on that square.
6) What about playing instruments to music? Each of you take an instrument. Make your own or use simple tambourines and shakers. Play a track on your phone and take turns playing your instrument.
7) Little kids love copying an adult's chores. You can put this to good use too. If you're dusting the house, say 'My turn' and do a bit. Then give him the duster and say 'Your turn'. Don't expect a well dusted window, but your child will certainly have had fun!
For children who need more practice:
8) To make the task more complex, you can introduce another child into the turn taking activity. He will now have to wait two turns before his own. When it's your turn, you can take a little longer to do it, making him wait a bit longer.
9) For older kids, you can turn introduce turn taking into several other activities like Simon Says or Queen of Sheba. On any of these activities, just introduce a my turn - your turn system into it. It is quite empowering for your child to play the teacher.
10) As your child gets better at it, you can introduce very simple board games. Board games are generally harder because there is no immediate reinforcement. You need to wait until the end of the game to be the winner. So make sure the game you use does not need too much turn taking. For example, if you're playing 'snakes and ladders', make your own game with only 40 squares.
Depending on your child's attention levels and age, remember to keep your expectations at appropriate levels. And don't forget to have fun! If your child sees you enjoying the activity, he will most likely enjoy it too.
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