Focusing Game

March 19, 2014


We were having trouble with teenaged boys remembering things.
What a surprise, right?
I sent Big-‘un to the store for three things, and he got all three things wrong. Lil’ ‘un kept forgetting his homework.  I didn’t panic, because that’s just the way boys are.
I taught school for several years and happen to believe that “focusing” on a topic or object you aren’t necessarily interested in is something that can be (and should be) learned. Focusing on everyday tasks is a wonderful skill to have and I think there’s an entire generation that is unable to focus on anything that doesn’t blink or flash (like books and teachers).
This isn’t the time to get into the discussion of medicating children. I have strong opinions against it, and if you have other beliefs, then you are entitled to them. We’ll let that be that.
Anyway, I’m talking about the natural kind of forgetfulness that all kids get. They turn 13 and start thinking about everything in the world except the thing they are supposed to be thinking about.
One of my children went to school this year wearing a lightweight jacket and forgot to wear a shirt underneath. This is just the nature of the beast. If they can’t remember to wear clothes, how can they possibly remember the odd grocery list of:
“chocolate chips, large carrots and a gallon of milk?”
What he naturally remembers instead is:
“chocolate  chi. . . hey, that girl in class had chocolate candy today. . . her hair is yellow. . . like the sun. . .  it’s hot outside. . .
cars. . . girls . . . why am I in the parking lot of  the Piggly Wiggly???”
So here’s what I did.
 I grabbed some scrap paper, and on the back, wrote about thirty different two-word combinations.

Blue hat
Propane grill
Antique rug
Fast airplane
You get the idea.
Then, I cut them all into strips, and had each boy draw a slip of paper every morning. I told them they had to focus on remembering the two word combination, then at dinner that night, I would ask them to tell me what their words were. The idea was to work up to two or three slips of paper and teach them the art of focusing and remembering important things.


The end result of my educational experiment?
I would say in general, it helped.
They learned that focusing is a purposeful act that requires effort.
Of course, it worked better when I remembered to make them draw the slips of paper out of the bowl.
Their excuse is youth.
My excuse is age.
How we ever remember anything around here is the real challenge of the day.

To read an old post about my favorite children’s books, click here.


  • Ha! This sounds like the test the doctor gives a person when they hit 60 or 65: they are trying to determine if Alzheimer’s is setting in. I never thought about trying it on a teenage boy. Unfortunately it is 30 years too late for me!

  • Love your parenting skills. What a clever idea!

  • Very clever Leslie Anne, my children always remember too much, I wonder if this would work on my husband though….

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Hahahaha! You made me laugh!

  • As a mother of boys only, I can attest to this. Someone once told me to give them no more than 3 directions at a time because that’s all they could process. Ha! I felt lucky when mine remembered 2. They’re grown now and the forgetfulness that plagued them in their youth evolved into selective memory. They take after their father 😉

  • Great idea! We’ve played a game with friends and family where each person draws a slip of paper with a word written on it (such as “pizza”) and after dinner, everybody tells a personal story associated with the word. It’s a fun way to get to know something about each other!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      That could get a little crazy with some creative types I know!

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