We teach our children so many other skills, but do we really think about teaching them to listen?
How often do we as parents and teachers complain about children not listening?
The art of listening is something they’ll use throughout their entire lives and while it usually takes a back seat to learning how to talk, walk, ABC’s… it’s just as important a skill. In some ways maybe even more important.
There are many fun ways to “play” while teaching listening skills. On any of the activities below be sure to comment on what a good listener they are. That makes the connection to the value of listening. That is the teaching.
- Talk with your child about ordinary things that may happen during the day and question them on things you both hear. For example- talk about the sounds you hear as you are outside like birds, airplanes, traffic.
- Read books aloud to your child asking questions about what they think will happen next. At the end of the story, question them about events in the story to see how well they were listening. No “yes” or “no” questions, we want information shared.
- Play games that encourage listening skills, such as “Simon Says,” or “I Spy.” Games like this can also help make car trips easier for everyone. Yes, even “Simon Says” – just do smaller motions like: turn your face to the window, rub your nose, tap your lips….
- Sing one of your child’s favorite songs together. Sing again (which children love to do) and change important words in the song to see if they notice. They will point out your “mistakes.”
Now listening skills are not just about the fun or play activities. There are other components, that as adults we need to use when talking with young children which will foster good listening.
- Kneel down to eye level. It’s easier to talk to someone when you are on the same level or can look them in the eye. Getting down to their level makes it more likely they will focus and listen to you. If it’s hard to kneel down, adapt – pick them up, sit in chairs. What’s most important is that you’re eye to eye, or on a similar level.
- Speak at a steady pace, in a normal voice, in a language your toddler can understand. Don’t dumb down your language (baby talk), because they understands more than you realize. If your words sound like gibberish, they’ll likely ignore you.
- Say it once. If your toddler doesn’t respond, gently show them the way or how to follow your directions. Saying it over and over means they don’t need to listen the first time. That is not a behavior pattern we want to set in place or encourage. Make sure your directions aren’t too wordy – one or two steps. Toddlers have a short attention span, and you’ll lose them if you don’t get to the point.
- Keep your word. If you tell your toddler that they must eat a good meal or they can’t have dessert, stick to it. One important part of a toddler’s development isn’t just listening to what you say, it’s also important that they know you mean it and will consistently follow through.
- Control your yelling. It’s often better to drop your voice tone or whisper to get your point across. When they are ignoring you, it’s tempting to yell to get them to do what you want. However, if you yell too much, your toddler could learn to tune you out, or just see this as normal. Save your yelling for times when you really need it, like when you notice your toddler is about to run out into the street. We keep telling them not to do something to another child they don’t want done to them. Do you like being yelled at?
- Listen to your toddler. This seems like such common sense, but so often we do not truly listen to them. Especially at a young age, children like to be just like their mom or dad. Good role models are needed in developing good listening skills. The other benefit of listening to your young child is supporting the development of their personal sense of self-worth.
- It’s also good to have conversations with your toddler, even if their vocabulary isn’t completely understandable. These “pretend” conversations build strong communication skills that your toddler will use the rest of their life. Repeat what you hear them saying. Take the opportunity to expand by adding a descriptive word. This not only works on listening skills, but increases their vocabulary.
It all seems to come down to being involved and interacting with purpose with our children. Enjoy them.
I wonder what you’ll hear?