Attention skills: what are they and how can they be developed?

How many times do you try to get your child’s attention to no avail? How many times do you have a conversation with a teacher about a child who is unable to manage distractions?

Attention skills are necessary for all sort of tasks and activities and are part of communication and social skills too.

At Howard Primary we talk about attention skills as follow:

  • Sustained Attention. The ability to attend to a task for extended periods of time without losing focus or concentration.
  • Selective Attention. The ability to focus and concentrate on a task even when distractions are present.
  • Divided AttentionThe ability to divide focus between two tasks and complete them simultaneously.
  • Alternating Attention. The ability to shift focus from one task another efficiently and effectively.

When children join Reception, we work on attention skills using a programme called Attention Bucket. It was originally designed by Gena Davies for children on the autistic spectrum. However, it has been adapted for children in mainstream school such as Howard Primary. In yr1 and yr2 we work in small groups on Attention Bucket.

There are 4 levels :

  • Stage 1: Attention bucket (to focus attention)
  • Stage 2: Attention builder (to sustain attention)
  • Stage 3: Interactive game (to shift attention)
  • Stage 4: Individual activities (to focus and sustain attention in a group, then transition shifting attention to individual activity and then refocus on the group

Have a look at the video with the amazing Gena Davies explaining what the programme is all about in the context of developing attention in children on the autistic spectrum. The main ideas are applicable to a mainstream setting too.


Then have a look at Stage 1 and 2 Easter Theme video. It is a lot of fun, children love it!


I will be posting more videos so you can do Attention Bucket at home. No props needed. Just sit with your child and watch the video. Please decide the rules you want to follow and talk them through with your child: for example : 1. we can stand up from the chair 2. we can not touch the screen 3. we have to wait till the video is over before we leave the room

Please don’t be shy! If you have any questions you can contact me on :