Activities to inculcate listening skills in toddlers and older kids

Activities to inculcate listening skills in toddlers and older kids

My  interaction with a lot of young parents,over the years -be it of toddlers or of little older kids- has made me realise one thing. That, all want their children to have excellent communication skills.Sadly however, for most of the parents the meaning of excellent communication skills stops at:

  1. Speaking skills
  2. Speaking skills in English
Well, the importance given to spoken English is easily understood as we cannot deny the importance of the language in career progression today and of course not to forget other issues like prestige still attached to the language in our minds.However, today's generation's lack of speaking skills in hindi and one's native language also needs to be looked into.

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Regarding stress only on the spoken word , that, is also understandable as it  is the most visible portion of communication skills in any language.Communication skills of course include a host of things, even other than the major ones ie-listening,speaking, and writing.

Having good speaking skills be it public or other in any language  is just not what it seems on the surface ie ability to talk in a language.That comes from the ability to listen,comprehend and then express oneself-verbally /by the written word- with confidence which of course requires and entails a host of other abilities and facts.

 I will return to the topic in my further posts too! What holds my attention today, however, is a very important part of developing good communication skills and that, is developing good listening skills.Good listening skills cover the ability to :
  • pay attention 
  • to value the other person's point of view
  • to stay in touch with the unfolding utterance 
  • to make flexible conclusions about the meaning of what is being said.
In this post I intend to focus on this very important skill which must be inculcated in all kids .I am, many a time faced with one question by parents and recently, on being asked the same yet again   - 
' Our toddler is very inquisitive and intelligent, has already mastered many a stipulated things meant as a beginning education for any toddler .What else can we do to prepare our kid for the future?'- I was all smiles. The rhetoric sent me back in time to when we as young parents were faced with the same question.Well, parenting styles may change ,availability of things,options may increase manifold but emotions stand the test of time.

Coming back to the question, the answer is- 'There is lots that can be done .Believe me time will be less and what useful can be done is much more.'  The vision presented before me on a  chance visit to a pre school when my kid was just two, had me in jitters. I saw toddlers listening to their teacher  and following directions very comfortably. Follow directions ? Sit on a carpet and listen? My kid? A bit impossible! Though an age difference of some months does matter a lot at that age, this particular vision presented at the school seemed an impossible one for my toddler to achieve.

Is there something wrong with our kid?

No, I was assured by lots of my experienced in the know psychologist friends.Toddlers are dis-tractable by nature.Moreover they are taking first steps towards independence and if forced and not coaxed correctly they might do the exact opposite of what you ask. Listening forms as complex a web of skills and values as talking does.
Fortunately, if you start inculcating  now, the kid will be ready with very good set of listening skills for life.What better way to do so, than by capitalising on their natural love for games and play.So I have tried to compile below, few easy tricks and games we can use to enhance listening skills in toddlers and little older  kids too  :

  • Puppet play -Use a puppet to your advantage Puppets capture a small child's attention fast.These days wonderful hand puppets are available and most of you might be having them already.So all you need to do is use a goofy voice ,give a fancy name to the puppet(a new puppet will have an advantage of catching the child's attention-even one funny face with large eyes made on a sock will do) and ask your child to do various actions clap hands ,stamp your feet etc.It helps as your child doesn't see it as listening to mom anymore and listening to the puppet seems as a continuity of fun with no threat to new found independence.You are also avoiding a power struggle.
  • Go on a treasure hunt.A very small one will do too and finding even a familiar thing like an old soft toy will do.The mystery of the hunt is irresistible .Hide the treasure in an accessible place of your choice .Give simple age appropriate instructions like- Look under the red chair.Your child is motivated by the game to follow instructions and is also strengthening his memory muscles -if there are some by that name😊.As your child grows you can make instructions complicated.
  • Listening to a sound not in front of the kid .Your words do the trick !Listen to a sound not in your vision and say something like -That's a dog barking.Did you hear? - model listening  carefully for your child.Gradually your child will start mimicking and in time will also start identifying  sounds like kitchen sounds and their source.
  • Talk to your child all the time. Tell the child about an interesting story you read in the newspaper. Describe a conversation you had at work/other  with a friend. 
    Get in the habit of narrating everyday chores. If you're in the kitchen together while you're making dinner, for example, you can say, "I need to measure out two cups of water and then add one cup of rice..." It may not seem as if your child is paying attention — but she is. 
  • Make reading, an interactive activity. When reading a book to your child, stop before turning the page and say, "What do you think will happen next?" Ask her to explain her answer to see how well she's listened to what you've read so far. If she seems unsure about what happened, start again.
  • Make up silly rhymes. The more absurd, the better. ("The fat cat ate the hat. Then the rat ate the fat cat who ate the hat...")
    This activity will teach your child to listen for words that sound the same and to identify rhyming patterns.
  • Play listening games. You can rely on old favorites, like Simon Says, Telephone (a google search will tell what they are, in case of doubt), or make up your own simple listening games.For example, you can say, "Let's go on a mission . I want you to bring me : A hairbrush from your bedroom and a slipper from your sister's room." Each round, you can add one item and reward .-Your voice modulation should add just the right amount of secrecy to it.
  • Cook together. Find a recipe, read the directions out loud, and let your child do the measuring, mixing, stirring, and pouring.Other than a good listening skill builder it builds your child's vocabulary too!
  •  Make cleanup a game by recording your instructions: "Pick up your dolls and put them on the shelf. Then put your clothes in the laundary bag."
  • Have your child close her eyes. Start by saying, “Listen carefully.” Make a noise using a familiar household sound. For example, run the vacuum, ring the doorbell, turn on some music, fill a pan with water, etc. Have your child identify the sound. If he or she can’t identify the sound give them a hint. For example, “This is what you hear when I’m getting ready to cook noodles.”

    The above, are nothing but chunks of age old wisdom  may be wrapped in new clothes but believe me they work even today!
      Before signing off ,at the risk of sounding repetitive I would like to stress on the role played by the executer of the above tasks, the parents.The success of whatever you want for your kids depends on the interest shown by you.Time spent by you on your kids when they are just that,ie kids, saves you  lot of worry later. Tongue in cheek, I just can't  resist adding that, shuffling kids one class to another in competition among the elders is not going to help as much as giving personal family  time to your child is.

      Happy talking(to your kids of course!!!)

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