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The Development of Listening Skills in Children

Updated April 17, 2017

Listening can be difficult for adults, let alone fidgety, little bodies, but the key to building active listening skills is patience. It's not that children don't listen, but that they are listening to everything. They identify words, translate what they hear and then try to figure out how to respond. These listening skills are complex developmental tasks, notes educational psychologist Jean Piaget. Develop listening skills with simple attention-getting activities.

Listening Games For Preschool and Kindergarten

Have children close their eyes and put their heads down. Play listening games to identify sounds on a CD or noises outside the window. Let the children describe items or sounds they hear. Ask them if they hear other sounds; tell them to listen for birds, lawnmowers, etc. Play guessing games with single objects placed in separate bags. Allow the children to guess what object is making the noise in each bag. Be sure to speak slowly and clearly, repeat the instructions, give examples and practice the activity. This exercise will teach focused and selective listening skills.

Reading and Reacting for Kindergarten through First Grade

Read aloud to children; ask them to predict what will happen in the story. Encourage them to share their personal experiences in connection to the story. While reading, ask children to listen for a certain word, and respond such as, every time they hear the word "happy" they must clap their hands. Be sure children move around and shake their arms, belly and legs after periods of stillness to reduce "the wiggles." Reading aloud increases children's ability to listen, comprehend and actively engage in the process.

Musical and Sound Games for Preschool and Kindergarten Children

Play musical instruments and allow children to follow different rhythms. Also, play clapping games and have children copy clapped rhythms. Demonstrate high- and low-pitched sounds and loud and soft sounds. Teach games like "Simon Says," using three to four instructions such as "clap your hands," "snap your fingers" and "stamp your feet." This strategy increases attention span while enhancing listening skills and helps children to increase their ability to respond to various tasks.

Listening and Comprehension

Ask students to complete straightforward tasks and provide basic directions. "Samantha, please go to the cupboard, get a pencil and give it to Shaquan." "Jacob, ask Lexus if he has the paste; if he has the paste, ask him to pass it to you." It may be necessary to repeat requests to ensure that the child is focused. These simple activities can teach children to listen, comprehend, respond and react. Although these are basic skill-building tools, elementary schoolchildren through the age of 11 and 12 require constant reinforcement for listening skills to become second-nature.

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About the Author

Suann Schuster has been working as a freelance writer since 2004. She served as an item writer for McGraw-Hill Education and a curriculum author. Schuster now provides content for Science and Massage Therapy texts for McGraw-Hill, as well as for test banks. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Sedona.