One of the important phases of a person’s life is childhood because it involves comprehending important aspects of oneself and life in general. Simply put, childhood is a learning phase that is crucial to acquire and advancing four behavioural developments – physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development.
According to child psychology, children are great observers. Young children don’t have many places to go and possess limited language skills so the best and easiest approach for them to access information and learn new things is through observation and listening. They are fascinated by visually pleasing objects and are attracted to sounds or distinctive noises. Everything they observe and listen to plays a unique role in how the child thinks behaves and reacts. You might wonder how? Well, everything that a child hears and sees unconsciously leaves an impression and is ingested deep into their memory, allowing them to imitate and reproduce what they have seen and gauge how others would react to it in order to determine whether what they did was perceived as good or harmful. In other words, children attempt to comprehend and make sense of events by fusing what they see and hear.
The terms “hearing” and “listening” are often used interchangeably, however, this is incorrect. Hearing is the core purpose of a fully-functioning human ear which allows a person to hear sounds whereas listening requires much more. Listening depends on the person’s (in this scenario, a child’s) mental ability to comprehend and retain what they hear.
Young children can comprehend what is being told to them when they can listen intently. Their ability to listen helps them build stronger bonds with other people. Improving a child’s listening skills is an essential part of teaching them to be successful in school and in life. When children are able to pay attention and focus on what someone is saying, they are better able to learn. It is believed that there are three foundations of developing listening skills – hearing, listening, and paying attention. These foundations are critical since it aids in the child’s learning process.
How to Help Children Develop Their Listening Skills?
You can use these engaging exercises and fun activities to help your child develop effective listening skills. They will assist you in teaching and nurturing those skills.
Many parents read stories to their children before bedtime. Mostly this is a one-sided situation where the parent reads and the child listens before falling asleep. We suggest on making reading an interactive exercise. Pick a book you feel your child will enjoy and begin reading. After you finish reading some portion of the book, put it aside for a while and ask your child what they believe will happen next in the story. This enables you to assess the child’s level of listening comprehension. If you notice that your child was not paying as close of attention as you had anticipated, then encourage them to develop the habit of guessing what will happen next in the story.
- Focus on speech cues
Make certain children focus and listen to important speech cues. When you are conversing with your child, help them understand the vital speech cues by highlighting or placing emphasis on words like “right now”, or “later” or direction cues like “left”, “right” or “bottom.” You can even do this by making hand gestures.
- Listen to audiobooks
Find a few interesting audiobooks that you feel your child will enjoy. Listening to audiobooks is an excellent way to improve their listening comprehension. It allows them to focus on words that build vocabulary, change in the tone and rhythm of speech of the narrator, and it boosts their imagination and creativity.
- Multiple instructions
Give your child a list of instructions to follow around the house or maybe, at the supermarket. Start by giving out only one instruction and make sure they clearly understand it. For instance, at home, you can ask them to fetch the blue bedsheet from the bottom shelf of the cupboard. When they are competent at following a single instruction, you can offer them multiple instructions. With so many rules and regulations to obey in class and across the school, this activity is quite beneficial for children.
For pre-schoolers, you can give them instructions while drawing or colouring. For instance, hand out a colouring page of a house to your child and instruct him/her to colour the doors brown and the roof red.
- Story building
Story building or story chain is an interesting group game. One person from the group will start the story by saying a sentence, for example, “Once upon a time, in a magical land far, far away, lived a beautiful fairy.” The story will then be continued by the second person by adding a new sentence, followed by the third, and so on.
- Direction Game
In this game, you need to put a blindfold on your child and guide them through the room by simply using the words, “right”, “left”, “go” and “stop” to reach the end point. You can place pillows in a disordered manner to act as hurdles. Reward your child when they get to the end point by following your instructions correctly.
- Guess What
Let your child guess the name of the object based on the clues given to them. For example, you can say, “it is a liquid which is white in colour”, to which your child can reply, “milk”. You can even provide them hints to guess the animals or vehicles. The purpose of this game is to help your child guess the object correctly by attentively listening to the description and clues.
- Broken Telephone
This is one of the most popular children’s games and it is a great way to enhance your child’s listening skills. This is a group game so gather 3 or more children or family members to play this game. The first player will whisper a sentence (e.g., I sleep on a red bed) in the other player’s ear only once who will then whisper it to the next player and so on. The last player to hear the sentence will say it out loud. The fun element of this game is that the sentence or message always gets changed till it reaches the last player which means it’s a broken message.
This is an exercise that puts your child’s memory and listening skills to the test. You can start by saying, “I was in the kitchen and I saw an apple.” Your child will continue by saying, “I was in the kitchen and I saw an apple and a fig.” The aim of the exercise is to repeat the sentence said by the previous person and add another sentence to it. The key is to maintain the sequence of the items listed during the activity.
Tips to improve listening skills
1. Encourage your child to ask questions. Read stories and other interesting age-appropriate articles to your children which incite curiosity compelling them to ask questions. Similarly, you can start a conversation by asking them questions as well. You must ensure to carefully listen when they answer.
2. Make sure you provide ample opportunities for your child to hear and understand what you are saying. Try to avoid speaking in a hurry.
3. Avoid using sarcasm or making assumptions when speaking to your child. This will help them understand and relate to what is being said to them.
4. Use visuals, when possible, to help your child understand what you are saying. For example, draw a picture to illustrate your point.
5. Avoid yelling or speaking in a harsh tone. That will only make it difficult for your child to comprehend what you are saying.
6. Be prepared to listen to your children with absolute attention. Maintain eye contact when they are speaking to you, avoid any sort of distractions, and don’t interrupt them in the middle of a sentence.
7. Encourage children to talk and converse. Provide or create opportunities for children to share their thoughts and feelings. Listen closely to what they say. This offers you the ability to fathom what your child is exposed to during the day and determine whether they fully understand its meaning, can relate to it in some manner, or what are their thoughts about that particular subject.
8. The span of attention of young children is quite short. There’s a good chance that after a while they might appear uninterested if they find the activity or topic unappealing. Be patient and search for other entertaining and interesting methods to enhance your child’s listening comprehension.
9. Verbally praise your child when they follow the instructions correctly or when they attentively listen and converse during story time.