Sometimes I observe leaders who are teaching kids on Sunday mornings struggling to get the kids’ attention. Using phrases like, “Please be quiet”, “Shhhh”, or “I’ll wait until everyone is quiet” can sometimes take a long time to get kids to settle so the lesson time can begin. Here are a few ideas that might help leaders get kids attention quickly and effectively.
Kids want to pay attention when something grabs their attention. TV shows, movies, commercials, YouTube videos and video games all use similar strategies to get the attention of kids. There is no one giving an introduction before the media begins asking them to sit quietly, or to please pay attention. Here are some things you can try to get kids’ attention.
- Start with something that grabs their attention. Instead of saying, “Ok, it’s time to do some singing”, try playing a countdown video such as this one to let the kids know that we are gearing up to something amazing! It sends the message that in just 60 seconds, you can transition from whatever you are doing to worshipping Jesus!
- Use an attention activity such as Simone Says or clapping a pattern and get them to repeat it. These attention grabbers are an interactive way to get kids attention and kids usually want to jump in and participate. Once you have the collective group following you, the final action can be put your hands together and in your lap. Then it will be quiet for you to say what you want to say next.
- Try to stay away from asking kids to “Be quiet”. It’s better to keep the energy high, and in a controlled way, bring it back down instead of trying to compete for the attention of kids while they are talking.
- Review the rules. Kids need to know what the boundaries and expectations are. By having a few simple rules like, “No talking when someone else is talking” or “Keep your hands and feet to yourself” then kids can be reminded about what is expected of them. Keeping the rules short and simple helps them remember the rules.
- Make use of other helpers in the room. The expectation should still be for kids to be listening when someone else is talking. Adult helpers can quietly redirect kids to stop talking if needed instead of the person at the front calling them out in front of everyone else. If disruptive behaviour continues, ask the kids director or room leader to chat with the child about next steps if they do not make choices to listen and participate.
- Eliminate dead time. Keep things moving. Don’t have gaps and spaces in your program where kids can get distracted. If you go directly from one element in your program time to the next it will minimize the number of times that you will lose the kids’ attention. Be prepared and know what is coming next. Have extra time fillers such as Simon Says or I Spy that can keep the kids attention when something unexpected happens. You could also use this time to have kids repeat the main point or the Bible verse if you have a few extra minutes between program elements.
Share these ideas with your kids ministry leaders to help them keep the kids’ attention the next time they are teaching kids. If you have other ideas that work in your kids rooms, add them to the comments below.
For more information on creative ways to teach the Bible, read this post about a book by Aaron Reynolds.