Listening skills benefit children's development from birth and throughout childhood. They are important for speech and language development, cognitive development and for the development of social skills. During the preschool years, listening skills help children's speech develop smoothly and rapidly, and helps them acquire knowledge and understand concepts about their world. Listening skills become even more important when children start kindergarten or school, in order for them to stay safe and to attain the most benefit from these new and exciting learning environments.
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From birth, babies listen to sounds and voices around them, and within a few weeks recognise the voice of their primary caregiver, often their mother. By establishing eye contact, chatting and singing to the newborn, parents build a relationship with the child. This close relationship encourages the development of a child's listening skills. Babies who develop good listening skills use them to copy sounds and "converse" with their parents or caregivers, with coos, gurgles and babbles, while toddlers use their listening skills to help them pronounce first words and construct simple sentences. Listening skills also benefit children's overall language development and cognitive function, such as their memory. For example, by listening to number songs and rhymes, children begin to memorise them and to learn new vocabulary and concepts about numbers, such as number names and the order of numbers.
As well as benefiting speech development, listening skills further children's progress in other areas of language development, such as literacy, and in all areas of the learning curriculum at school. For example, children need listening skills to learn letter sounds, a basic requirement for early reading and writing. When they start kindergarten or school, children move from the mainly one-to-one relationship with their primary caregiver to sharing space with many other children, and having to listen to different teachers and assistants. Therefore, it becomes even more important for children to have good listening skills in order to listen carefully to instructions that will help them stay safe and understand their learning tasks.
Develoment of Personal and Social Skills
Listening skills also benefit children's development of personal and social skills, such as their ability to show empathy for others and to make and keep friendships. According to Dr. Carol Valinejad, a clinical psychologist: "Along with knowledge, self-determination and strategy utilisation, empathy is coming to be regarded by more educators as a key attribute of a successful learner." Learning to care and share, co-operate with others and get to know new people are all important life skills. Listening skills help foster children's development of empathy and other life skills, enabling them to make the most of all social and learning situations throughout childhood and beyond.
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