Learning To Stop And Think

learning to stop and think

Impulsivity is a sign of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and probably most 36-month-olds’ behavior would meet the criteria for being ADHD.

Some of the criteria follow: makes careless mistakes, has difficulty sustaining attention in work or play activities, does not seem to listen, does not follow through on instructions, has difficulty organizing tasks, avoids tasks that require sustained effort, is easily distracted, is forgetful about daily activities.

What happens during years three, four and five of a child’s development determines whether that child learns to self-regulate behavior. Mastering certain key skills during this first six years of life makes a huge difference in a person’s life.

Learning to stop and think is one of those key skills.

When I was a six-year-old my teenage neighbor taught me a singing cheer: Stop, look and listen. I’ve sung this cheer many a time with my preschool and elementary students to get the point clear and in the air when ADD behavior was everywhere.

It really does boil down to those three words. We need to help our children learn to stop, look and listen.


One of the simple games I recommend for helping direct and redirect a young child’s behavior is the Verb Game. Helping your child integrate thought and movement, i.e. having the body obey the will, is a great help to the young child.

Directions for the Verb Game: On 3” x 5” index cards, with one word per card, write the following words: jump, walk, sit, stand, twirl, spin, squirm, wiggle, laugh, smile, nod, shake, blink, smack, stomp, tap, clap, click, rub, pat, crawl, freeze and stop.

I suggest writing these words down because in a moment of great need, I can never think of enough action words. But I can usually find the stack of cards.

Play the game by telling your child that you are going to play the Verb Game, that you’ll say a word and both you and your child will do it together. Read ”jump” out loud, and begin to jump. Jump for about ten seconds with your child, and then give the next command. After the fourth or so command, say, ”Don’t jump.” Wait about ten seconds, and see what happens.

What you more than likely will see is your child jump or do whatever you’ve instructed him or her to not do. Continue on with rest of the commands, and then offer your child a chance to give the commands. Play on a daily basis to help your child learn to follow directions by connecting mind and body, thoughts and actions.


Helping your children to notice the world around them can be done with a game I call “What Do You See?”

Take a detailed filled object—perhaps a photo from a magazine or an art postcard. Invite your child to play the “What Do You See?” game.

Sit in a comfortable place and place the object in sight and say, “We are going to sit silently for 30 seconds and look at this picture. When 30 seconds is up I am going to ask you want you see.” On small slips of paper write what your child tells you he or she sees in the picture.

Try to elicit ten items, placing the labels around the picture. Review and re-read each label. “You looked at this picture and you saw a girl, a bike, a bike helmet, a pink dress, a black dog, a boy, roller skates, a fence, red flowers, green grass, a big tree.”

Point at each label as you name the items. Gather the labels, read them one at a time, hand the label to your child and let them place on the picture.

Afterwards place the picture and the labels in a basket and place on an activity shelf for your child to repeat by either looking or, looking and labeling. Needless to say, this looking exercise is also an early reading activity.


Children love quiet. All they need is to learn how to listen. Children enjoy a listening game where everyone gets quiet for about two minutes, which is a very long time for three- and four-year-olds, and for some 34-year-olds, too.

In my preschool class I’d set an hourglass-type egg timer in the middle of our group to give the children a focal point and concept of how much longer they should sit and listen. In the quiet the children heard each other sigh, squirm and change positions. In short the children became aware of how a simple movement disrupts the mood of the group. At the end of the two-minute period, I would go around the group and ask each child what they heard as they listened.

Without exception, the children were amazed at what they could hear. Birds outside even though all the doors and windows were shut. Cars at the stop sign a block away. A fire truck leaving the station a mile away. The rumble of a train. The neighbor’s tractor or leaf blower. The refrigerator. The heat clicking on. The air going through their noses. The clock ticking in the adjoining room. The faucet dripping in the bathroom.

In the quiet the children listened.

After this five- to ten-minute listening exercise the children appeared more confident and controlled in their actions, left the group lesson with tranquil smiles and worked the rest of the morning with deeper concentration than before the lesson.

Stop, look and listen.

Cheer your children on to learn how to stop and think, essential skills for a lifetime.

Sign up below for your free guide, What Should Our Children Learn?

What Should Our Children Learn

What Should Our Children Learn?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

One Response to “Learning To Stop And Think”

Leave a Reply