Listening skills for kids

Written by emilia lamberto
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Listening skills for kids
Listening is a very important skill for both children and adults alike. (secret image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com)

As they typically have shorter attention spans than adults, getting children to listen often takes patience. Listening skills are extremely important, both academically and socially. Despite this, there are not normally listening-specific courses for children in school. Fortunately, by modelling active listening skills and teaching your child to listen through games and other activities, you will not only be helping her, but you'll be helping yourself and others who interact with her as well.

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Importance of Listening

You may find that the biggest challenge for teachers is getting the students to listen and pay attention in class. If a child is unable to listen, it will make learning and making friends much more difficult. Listening is an important skill needed for effective communication, in and out of class. Listening is much different than simply "hearing" something. Effective listening entails active listening and processing what is said. When children simply hear something, they may not actually grasp what's being said. Point out to students that listening skills are crucial for building healthy relationships and taking part in productive learning.

Teaching Listening Skills

Reading is one of the easiest ways to teach children listening skills. When reading to your child, it basically forces him to engage in listening in order to understand what is going on in the story. When reading your child a familiar book, make sure he is paying attention and listening by improperly reading a line in the book. For example, if the book says, "The bees are buzzing," say something silly such as, "The bees are meowing." If your child catches the error, he is listening. Another way to teach a child how to listen is by modelling good listening skills. When speaking to your child, first explain why you wish to talk to him. Make eye contact and kneel down so that you are at eye-level with your child. Touch his shoulder or his arm as you speak. Talk in an interesting tone or mention something that he enjoys. Allow him to speak. Repeat back what he said in order to make sure that you understand what he means. After the discussion, ask your child to repeat the important points of the conversation. If he cannot remember, do not press him. Continue to practice and build up your child's active listening skills.

Listening Skills Games

As easy as it may sound, playing simple games with children can help teach listening skills. Games like "Simon Says" or "Red Light, Green Light" require a child to focus on what you are saying in order to participate in the game. Besides these games, you may make up your own. For example, play a game by telling your child to talk. After 5 seconds, tell her to sit down and stop talking. Continue this for about 10 minutes. After the game is over, reward her for listening. The next time you play, tell her to talk and then wait 10 seconds before telling her to sit down. Continue increasing the amount of time in between commands. Children may also find joy in storytelling with their favourite action figures or dolls. Pretend that the toy is telling a story and after you're finished, ask your child what the story was about. Next, let her tell a story with the doll. Show her that you're paying attention by being quiet and listening.

Things to Avoid

Avoid screaming or speaking to your children in drill-like commands if they are not listening. Instead, use positive reinforcement and effective body language. For example, if your child has not cleaned up his room and is instead painting a picture, comment on how beautiful the picture is. Next, touch his shoulder and explain that he may finish his picture after he straightens up his room. Avoid using questions such as, "How many times do I have to say this?" or "How many more times do I have to ask?" These tend to convey only that you are angry. In order to communicate with your child effectively, you'll need to be a good role model.

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