Contrary how it might feel when your child seems to ignore your request for the fifth time, hearing and listening is not necessarily the same thing. Hearing is passive and does not require attention or concentration, while listening requires diverting attention from playing and actively listening, and processing what you are saying, according to Little One's Reading Resource. Fostering good listening skills in early childhood is no different from building any other type of skill; it requires engaging practice.
Telling and listening to stories encourages active listening, self-expression and communication, according to Building Blocks, an early childhood website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reading to your child, and asking questions about the characters and plot-- and encouraging her to do the same, helps her practice listening to details and sequential actions. Orating stories, as well, and ask her to add on pieces of information based on what you have started.
Sound Guessing Games
Listening requires concentrating on all sounds, even the ones that are not loud or obvious. See how many soft sounds you and your child can identify while walking through the park or woods, such as the wind, the chirping birds and the rustling leafs. Fill three or four empty soda bottles, each with a different material, such as water, rice and dried beans and let her shake them while noting the different sounds. Finally, have her identify which bottle contains which material while blindfolded.
Following directions requires actively listening to verbal instructions closely enough to follow them. Simple games like Simon Says are a fun way for your energetic child to practice active listening while moving around. Start out with one-step directions, such as, "Touch your head," and expand the directions as your child becomes a more skilled listener to, "Hop on one foot to the kitchen counter and then slither back here on your belly." Practice taking turns giving and following directions or change the theme of the directions, for example, give directions only involving arms, or legs or feet.
Understanding the order of doing something requires listening and sequencing, different pieces of information. Use picture cards to tell a story and have your child suggest which picture to use for each statement. For example, if the story is about a dog that is looking through a window wanting to play in the rain, ask your child to choose which picture best fits what you just described. For an older child, create pictures depicting a sequential process like making the sandwich, leave out a few key steps and after running through the directions, ask him if you remembered everything, and if not, what you forgot.
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