I can still remember the voice of my first-grade teacher as she would say, “Boys and girls, put on your listening ears.” We would all reach into some magic drawer and place our listening ears in place and my teacher would move on with the directions for a lesson.
Listening is a building block for learning. It is a critical skill for young children, especially considering the amount of learning that occurs in the early years. At about 4.5 months a baby recognizes his/her name. An 18-month-old understands 50 to 100 words – this compared to the 20 words in his/her vocabulary. Up to 80 percent of learning is verbal in the early years.
Listening really is a complex skill. If you and I are talking, you hear my voice, are listening to the words I am saying and you understand the meaning at the same time you are looking at me and filtering the background noise out. Good communicators are also good listeners.
Young children develop listening skills over time from positive and engaging experiences with adults – talking, reading and playing. Everyone learns better when they are interested and having fun.
Tips to Improve Listening Skills
- Ask your child to look at you when you talk. This helps them focus on what you’re saying.
- Encourage your child to re-tell their favorite story or a book you just read.
- Eliminate distractions when you and your child are talking – turn off the TV and set aside electronic devices.
- Use your child’s name at the beginning of a direction. Everyone tunes in more when we hear our names.
- Ask them to follow multi-step directions. These can be silly like, “Jump three times, spin in a circle and pick up a book.”
- Read aloud every day.
- Play Simon Says, Red Light-Green Light, the Hokey Pokey or Musical Chairs
- Avoid interrupting your child when they are talking.
Your child’s hearing can be impacted by a cold or an ear infection. If you have concerns about your child’s ability to hear, please talk to your doctor.