Children are naturally curious and energetic, and often struggle with listening and paying attention. Some have developmental disorders or other conditions that impair their ability to listen and focus. This often interferes with learning and appropriate behaviour at school, home and in public. Listening skills can be compared to a muscle that needs to be exercised to grow stronger. Interactive games and activities that are fun and require children to pay attention or listen carefully can improve their listening skills.
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Simon Says requires children to pay attention to win the game. The leader asks the child or children to perform certain actions such as "pat your head," but the child should only perform the action if it is preceded by "Simon says." If they don't listen for this phrase, they are out of the game. Also allow the children to be leaders, which improves their focus as well. This game is equally effective with a group of children or with one child and an adult.
The Whispering Game
Have the children sit in a circle. The adult whispers a sentence to one of the children. The sentence should have detail, but not be too long for the children to remember. The child then whispers the sentence to the next child, and this repeats until the sentence has been whispered around the circle. Ask the last child to tell the group what he heard. Typically the sentence has been changed to some degree. Talk about the results of not paying close attention to what others are saying. Repeat the activity with instructions to listen very carefully.
Follow the Steps Game
This game can be adapted to most any classroom or home. Gather some items such as toys or household items. Ask a child to perform multi-step tasks. Consider the developmental level of the child when choosing the number of steps, since younger or lower functioning children require fewer steps. An example of a multi-step task is "stack 4 blocks, put the car on top of the blocks and turn around in a circle." Reward correct responses or make it a contest among a group of children.
Verbal Scavenger Hunt
Have children find specific items around the room or house. Rather than giving them a written list to carry, they are only given the list verbally. Ask the children to repeat the list two or three times to improve retention. One or two items may be an appropriate start for 3- to 4-year-old children, while four or five items may be appropriate for 6- to 7-year-old children. If the children perform the task well, repeat the activity with more items.
The Catch Me Game
Ask the children to listen for a particular word or phrase. While the teacher is conducting class, she periodically says this word or phrase. When the children "catch her" saying this, the children raise their hands or shout out "Caught you." Keep score to determine the winner or winners. This activity can also be adapted for use with one child by working in the word or phrase while the adult reads a storybook.
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