Most young children seem to have selective hearing—directions are ignored, but say a sentence with the word "ice cream" and they are suddenly attentive. We don't know about you, but we would prefer that our kids have what's called "active listening." Active listening is defined as the listener focusing intently on the message being delivered, which is demonstrated by the listener's response. After hearing something, the listener responds in a way to tell the speaker that he has been heard and acknowledged.
So how do you get this point across to young children? And how do you make it fun, so that listening doesn't become something on the long list of things you wished your children were better at doing?
Fun Ways to Practice Listening
Simple, classic games such as musical chairs, red light-green light (try this version for clean up time), Simon Says, and Mother May I? all incorporate active listening by their very nature. A child must focus and respond in order to play the game.
Driving in the car is a good time practice many things, including active listening. It mimics a telephone call, or other situations where the speaker and the listener aren't face to face. Eye contact isn't needed, but a correct response is. Try asking your child questions, playing games like I Spy, or quizzing math facts as you tool around town. After getting into a rhythm, throw in an unrelated question or statement. If your child reacts, that's a sign they were engaged in listening to you all along.
Interact while reading together. Before you turn the page, ask your child to predict what might happen next. Your child can make up voices for characters based on what you've read so far, or even act out the story as you narrate.
Listen to action songs, songs that tell your child to do something. It's always fun to dance, and if your child follows along to the words, he's exercising his listening skills. In addition to listening to action songs, listening to books on CD or musicals also give your child a chance to listen to something a little different.
Good listening and comprehension skills take practice, just like large and small motor skills. The more your child practices, the sooner being an active listener becomes second nature!
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