Following Directions: 10 Clever Ways To Help Kids

Directions and instructions are part of our daily life.

Unfortunately, kids with learning differences might have difficulty following directions.

Does your child have difficulty following directions or instructions? It’s time to help them out!

In this article, we have discussed how to make following directions for kids come naturally.

The results obtained from implementing ideas from this article will delight all parties involved – parents, teachers, and even the child.

Read on to learn more!

Why Is It Important For Children To Follow Directions?

To help your child function effectively in any environment, they need to cultivate the ability to follow directions.

When children have a problem following directions, their ability to complete tasks effectively is impacted.

But what are the building blocks needed to help a child follow directions?

Building Blocks Mandatory To Make Following Directions Easy For Kids

  • Hearing
  • Working Memory This involves the ability to retain information temporarily. It also entails manipulating information relating to reasoning, language, comprehension, and learning new information.
  • Understanding Language- This involves vocabulary and concepts.
  • Concentration And Attention- This involves doing activities with zero distractions. It also involves the ability to hold on to that activity till the task is completed.

How To Verify If Your Child Has Problem Following Directions

When a child has difficulty following directions, they might:

  • Need the direction in a simple manner
  • Have problem following longer directions
  • Failure to accurately follow directions and often misinterpret them
  • Appear to be non-compliant or distracted
  • Appear blank when directions or instructions are given.
  • Distract the person giving instructions
  • Often turn to peers to get what they need.

10 Tips To Help Make Following Directions For Kids Simple

1. Give Directions When They Are Focused

If you give directions to your kids when they aren’t focused, it’s a road to failure.

So, how do you get your child’s attention? Say the following:

Look at me, please. I want you to pay attention now.”

Some children have a hard time understanding the nonverbal part of a language.

Therefore, asking them to look at you instead of asking them to look into your eyes would solve that.

If you want your child to look into your eyes, the moment they look toward you, move your eyes into their line of sight.

2. Eliminate Distractions

The moment you get your child’s attention, work to keep it!

If the TV is on or someone is playing a video game in the background, it can be challenging to sustain attention.

Therefore, work at eliminating distractions even before any directions is given.

Turn off the television, ask the person playing the game in the background to stop.

If your child isn’t the one playing the game, take them to a calmer place.

You can be a model too! How?

Drop your smartphone and give your child undivided attention!

Apart from the fact that your child will enjoy your undivided attention, they will see that what you want to discuss is vital.

3. Make Good Use of “Wait Time.”

Do you know what wait time is?

Simply put, it is a three-to-seven-second pause that comes after a statement has been made or a question has been asked.

Research shows that when kids are allowed to let the information they hear sink in, they process better what has been said and respond well to them.

Nevertheless, it might happen that your child might not answer your questions or follow directions even after the wait time.

When that happens, do well to repeat yourself.

Also Read: How To Improve Processing Speed In Children

4. Speak Calmly

You might be tempted to speak louder to your child when you need them to help you get something done or say something.

Speaking loudly will not be productive.

Instead, speak quietly. When you speak in a more soft voice, you can capture your kid’s attention.

Therefore, when giving direction, be sure to be calm and ensure that your tone is calm. Why can you be sure that this will help?

When kids don’t have to process tone and volume, they focus better on what you are saying and what you need them to do.

5. Don’t Ask

Ask what? Don’t phrase directions like a question!

Instead of saying, “would you please shut the door?” Say: Please, shut the door!

Why is avoiding questions essential?

They might think that they have a choice – choose to obey or not.

Thus, when giving instructions, ensure it is straightforward and not a question, no matter how simple.

6. Ask The Child To Repeat

You might have to check for understanding.

Immediately after the “wait time,” it is beneficial to ask your child to repeat directions back to you.

This time, they have to use their words. Doing this opens up the opportunity to ask you questions.

Additionally, it allows them to clarify what has been said in case of any misunderstanding.

7. One At A Time

Instructions or directions should come one at a time.

Kids with thinking and learning differences might have a problem adhering to a sequence of steps.

You might say, “Please, go to the Zinc, wash your hands, and tell your brother it’s time for dinner.”

It is not uncommon for your child to get stuck after washing their hands.

Rather than merge up directions like this, give them one at a time.

In a situation where you find breaking directions into steps impossible, group them.

For instance, you could say something like: “While washing your hands, tell your brother it’s time to eat.”

This grouping works effectively in helping them make sense of the information they receive.

8. Number Directions

When it comes to multi-step directions, teachers and parents must put a number to them.

That is how they are helped to follow the directions with multi-step.

At a time, we can hold up nearly four things in our working memory.

It is possible to do this when there is a way to make them memorable or connected.

So, you can use words like:

  • “First, second, and third.”
  • “There are four things you would have to do.”

This will help your child keep the steps in mind.

Also, it can help them remember that there are more directions to follow.

9. Be Precise

Children who have problems with organization, planning, or language might not grasp vague directions.

When a direction is vague, your kid might have a problem following through.

Let’s explore an example: “Go tidy up the room.”

This instruction is vague. How? Your child might be wondering where they are meant to start.

Therefore, to make things easier for them, be specific!

For instance, break the job into smaller sections.

For example, you can say:

  • “Please, go and make your bed.” 
  • “Please, pick up the trash off the floor.”
  • Put your laundry away.”

Yes, these are specific directions.

You can expect your children to understand them. Remember, they have to be one at a time!

10. Use Visual Cues

Spoken directions are difficult for kids with language processing problems.

To help them, implement visual cues.

For instance, you might have to point out what must be washed. You can also demonstrate what you require your kids to do.

For example, say, “wash your hands the same way I’m washing mine.”

“Please, make your bed the way I’m making mine.”

These are visual cues that your child needs to understand the instruction you are giving them.

In summary:

  • Eye Contact is vital. You need to do this before giving them instruction at all.
  • Single Instructions. One instruction at a time
  • Simple Language. Make sure the language used is direct and simple
  • Break verbal Instructions.
  • Repeat. Let your child repeat the instruction given
  • Clarify. Ask your child to demand clarifications
  • Visual Cues. it involves body language, gestures, and facial expressions

Final Thoughts

With these ten tips, you can help improve your child’s ability to follow directions.

Following directions for kids shouldn’t be a herculean task!

By implementing these, communicating with your kids can become stress-free and rewarding.

Finally, therapeutic interventions can help kids follow directions.

We recommend that you meet a therapist if one of your children has difficulty following directions.

There are several following instructions activities you can expose your child to.

That will be discussed in our subsequent articles.

Thanks for reading. Please, do share with friends!

Welcome! I’m Trust. I’m a writer, public instructor, and mobile photographer. I’m passionate about an organized and productive life and have keen concern for folks living with ADHD and those having a slow processing speed. Join me on this journey as we live an organized and productive life!

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