Do You Have a Hard Time Getting Kids to Follow Directions?

How Nannies and Au Pairs Can Help Children Follow-Through

This week Maria Lopez, a nanny and former second grade teacher, has agreed to answer questions nannies have about helping children do well in school.

Reyna Horowitz, a nanny in New York asked Be the Best Nanny Newsletter what she can do to help her young charge follow directions better. She says the teacher says he isn’t following directions and she knows first hand he forgets to do what he is asked at home.

Ms. Lopez explains, “It’s very common for children to be easily distracted, making it difficult for them to follow directions.”

“The biggest mistake I have seen caregivers make when asking children to do something is giving children directions that are too complex and not specific enough,” says Ms. Lopez.

“Children have short attention spans and need very specific directions,” explains the former teacher.

She continues, “Just consider all the steps it take just to put everything they need each day for school in their their backpacks or how many steps are required to clean up a playroom full of toys.”

“There are so many steps required for all of these chores that it can even be difficult for adults to keep organized. So be patient and appreciate the difficulty in learning to follow directions,” advises the nanny.

Here are Maria Lopez’s Steps to Helping Kids Follow Directions:

1. Get the child’s attention before giving directions.
2. Wait until the child is looking at you to give directions.
3. Speak slowly, clearly, and use a kind tone.
4. Give simple directions, and keep them brief. For example, “Put the book on the book shelf. Pick up the stuffed animal and place it on your bed.”
5. To help the child follow through remind the child what will happen next. For example, “Once the doll is put away you can get out the play dough.”
6. Check that the child understands your directions by asking him to repeat or summarize them. Ask, “So what are you going to do next?”
7. Work on two-step directions by having the child repeat the directions aloud: “Once I put my plate in the sink, then I will wipe off the table.”
8. Encourage the youngster to ask questions when he doesn’t understand your directions.

9. Positively reinforce good follow-through.
10. Try not to show frustration when the child misunderstands directions.

How do you get kids to follow directions?


  1. The boys never ever follow thru so this is great advice I will be using.

  2. This is so frustrating for me.You are so right they get so distracted. Seems we can't get them to do anything. I do remember seeing before to give only 2 instructions at a time and break each task into small parts.

  3. Anyone else notice this seems to be worse with boys?

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