Hot Topics     Home and Family     Healthy Kids     Early Education     K-12     Education Guide    

Ten ways to improve your child’s listening skills



Learn what prevents your child from following instructions

Learn what prevents your child from following instructions

Listening: More than Just Hearing

Focused listening is one of the most important skills your child will ever learn. Children with strong listening skills do better in school, sports, relationships and eventually in their careers. But many children lack this important skill and parents are rightly concerned. What can you do?

First, listening is much more than just hearing. It is a given that you will have your child’s hearing checked by medical professionals and follow up with any problems discovered. Occasionally a wax build-up, ear infection, fluid behind the eardrum or other relatively minor ear problems must be addressed. If your child does have a hearing loss, be very sure to do all you can to maximize his or her hearing.

But listening problems are a different issue. “Listening is the conscious process of receiving meaning from the sounds we hear. It implies the ability to stay focused on the message, screen out distractions and make a meaningful connection with the content of the message. Good listening requires practice because it requires effort to do it well.”1

You can see that good listening requires not only the ears, but engagement of the mind and body as well. It is a series of decisions made by the listener and it can break down quite easily. Even children who want to “pay attention” and “follow directions” may be unable to if their attention is pulled away by background noise, movement, or other competing thoughts and sounds. 

Children need practice in focusing their attention, receiving the message, understanding the message and then responding in the appropriate way.

Parents, you can help your child be a better listener. Here are ten simple ways to build active listening skills.

READ MORE: How to help kids slow down and tune in

Practice Makes Perfect

  1. Model active listening. Build listening motivation and success by intentionally gaining your child’s attention before expecting him to listen. Whenever possible, make eye contact before speaking. When he responds, maintain eye contact and repeat the content of the message or model good listening by using appropriate body language such as nodding. 

  2. Encourage conversations on topics of your child’s choice. Model good listening and show your appreciation for your child’s ideas. It is surprising how little conversation takes place in our daily lives with today’s busy schedules. Mealtimes are often good times to engage in conversation.

  3. Read to him every day. A ten to fifteen minute read aloud session is one of the most powerful strategies you have to build listening skills. Select books he enjoys and stop often to predict what will happen next or to ask his opinion about the action in the story.

  4. Build her inner language by having your child repeat back what you’ve said. Or ask your child to explain what is happening or what your child plans to do. This will help your child to focus on the steps in the process and will help with listening to receive information and follow steps sequentially.

  5. Do the peanut butter and jelly sandwich game. Ask him to write down the directions for making a pbj and then you model following those directions exactly. Chances are there will be some gaps in the directions which make for a funny and a bit messy activity. The point will be made: listening and following directions is an exact skill if you want a good end product.

  6. Play the “add one more” game. Give one direction such as “Touch your nose.” Then add a second direction and ask your child to do both in sequence. Your child will need to remember to touch her nose and then go on to the second command. Keep adding directions and see how many she can remember in sequence. Children love this game.

  7. Cook together. Find a simple recipe and enjoy time in the kitchen together. Reading the directions aloud and then following them carefully is great practice in building active listening skills.

  8. Take a Listening Walk. Go for a nature walk with the express intention of noticing sounds. Shhh. What do you hear? Where is the sound coming from? What is making that sound? You might even keep a listening log and record the things you hear.

  9. Play sound pattern games. Tap on a drum or clap hands in a variety of different rhythmic patterns and have your child repeat the sounds. You can play the same game by counting and clapping the syllables in words.

  10. Play the old standby, Simon Says. This game is not only fun for children; it also builds great listening skills. They do not respond unless the leader says, “Simon says.”

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and freelance writer. She is the author of Homegrown Readers: Simple Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Read, available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Find her at www.janpierce.net.

Sources

1.   Helping Kids with Learning Disabilities Build Listening Skills by Dr. Kari Miller, LA Special Education Examiner, March 11, 2011. 

Other Resources for parents:

www.listen.org Listening in Early Childhood: An Interdisciplinary review of the Literature

http://www.scholastic.com Go to the parents tab and search for The Literacy Benefits of Listening 



Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • Calling all birdwatchers

    Check out Birdability which promotes birding for everyone

    Through education, outreach and advocacy, Birdability works to ensure the birding community and the outdoors are welcoming, inclusive, safe and accessible for everybody. We focus on people with mobility challenges, blindness or low vision, chronic illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental illness, and those who are neurodivergent, deaf or hard of hearing or who have other health concerns. In addition to current birders, we strive to introduce birding to people with disabilities and other health concerns who are not yet birders so they too can experience the joys of birding. read more »
  • 9/11 Remembrance Ceremonies

    Come and remember the people who were lost, first responders & survivors

    Events to honor the victims, first responders, and survivors of the 9/11 attacks. read more »
  • Mother Shares Her Journey with Heroin-Addicted Daughter

    Read the gripping new book about this family

    September is National Recovery Month and one mom has shared her journey with her daughter struggling with addiction. read more »
  • Learn How to Help Your Struggling Adolescents Navigate Change and Overcome Anxiety

    Parenting expert Erica Komisar has a new book that can assist you

    Adolescence is a notoriously complicated time for kids as well as their parents. Plus, the epidemic of mental health disorders in young people has made parenting today even more challenging. But it’s not too late. Parents of adolescents can still have a profound impact on the health and well-being of their children. read more »
  • 5 of the best movies your teen can watch at home

    Entertain your kids with these flicks from Netfilx

    Writing for Popsugar, Sabienna Bowman shares her top movie picks for teens read more »
  • Master P On Rap Feuds, Conscious Parenting, Black Superheroes

    Allison Kugel interviews this rap icon

    Interview with rap icon Master P by Allison Kugel. Here he talks about family and more. read more »
  • Cool new food savers from Lasting Freshness

    Vacuum seal your food to keep it fresh longer

    Using this patented handheld Vacuum System your food is preserved up to 5 times longer than food stored using conventional grocery storage methods. read more »
  • The Mama Bear Effect Launches New Resource to Combat Child Sexual Abuse

    Parents of young children and those with special education needs now have a free tool to educate children about their bodies and boundaries

    Parents, caregivers, teachers, and therapists now have a new tool to educate the most vulnerable population of children, those who need specialized assistance with learning and communication. read more »
  • Dirty, sweaty laundry making your house stinky?

    Here is a great solution from STNKY

    STNKY Bags are the best way to sort, store, carry, wash and dry everything from sweaty gym clothes, laundry when you travel, scrubs, and just about anything else that gets dirty or sweaty. read more »
  • Get Green this September

    Be a Friend of the Environment

    NYS Department of Environmental Conservation offers tips on cleaning out your closet and recycling your discarded clothing. read more »