Most of the hard work I put into storytelling and gaming goes towards my live games with children. When running a game with 10 kids at the local game store, I had to work extra hard to keep their attention. Let me tell you, the method I used really worked and I think you can use it as well to help children stay focused during the game.
Problem of Focus
With table top roleplaying games, only one player can speak at a time. Since the game requires speech in order to move the game along through commands and statements, or question, then the player who is speaking has the attention. Unlike video games, the game master can only focus their energy towards one player. This means that when a player is asking questions about the story, or for more information about the game, other players can sit idly and risk losing focus.
A Quick Solution
With my children’s games, I first describe the situation. Then I announce that each player will get to ask 1 question for their character. After everyone has asked, each player will get 1 action. I always start with the player on my left and move counter clockwise, giving each player the chance to inquire about the scene Periodically, I will remind everyone to listen because they can all use the information when it comes time for action. After all of the questions have be asked, each player then announces their action based on the information they communally acquired. The practice of active listening is accomplished because each player is rewarded for their fellows asking other questions. The more players you have, the more answers the party gains.
A Fun Solution
To really grab the focus of 1 children, I place a gigantic six sided dice in the center of the table and set it face up to 1. I announce that “when the moves to 6, something happens!” This sets the children on edge and helps them anticipate “what comes next”. In short, I have single handedly captured the entire table’s attention for the next 6 rounds. Each time a player announces an action, I subtly move the dice face up to the subsequent number. The children giggle and squirm with excitement knowing that their actions are moving the story along to adventure. When the dice faces up “6”, I remove the dice and announce the change in scene – which better include something epic.
How about your table? What ways do you capture the attention (and keep it) for your imaginative and energized players? As always, may your story continue!