Listening is one of the most important (if not the most) acts of communication we humans conduct among ourselves. As a baby, the little ones start the connection with the outside world in the warmth of their mother’s womb. This is prominently seen from the way they react to different sounds. Although some parents might not realize it, that first connection is crucial and one of many ways to help improve your children’s listening skills.
Rest assured, I’m not saying this lightly. To get a child to listen sometimes can be a daunting task—I hear you. I had my struggles as a caregiver and in the classroom as well.
But apart from issues with behavior, temper, and upbringing, there is much more lying beneath.
For instance, in the preschool classroom where I used to teach, I had a child who used to do whatever he wanted in school. My coworker and I had to speak with him several times before we received any type of response—when he didn’t stare at us nonchalantly and turn around to do his own things (more about this later).
In a situation like this, what should you do?
According to Mary Renck Jalongo, a professor at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, for children who don’t have any hearing impairment, listening is the cornerstone for later speaking, reading, and writing. And implementing strategies for children to become better listeners will sure help them to improve other areas.
In other words, children are not born with listening skills. Those skills are built on good habits from a young age. With that said, here are some strategies to improve overall children’s listening skills:
How to Improve Your Children’s Listening Skills
As a parent or caretaker, you are children’s first role model, and like little sponges, they will mimic everything you do. By actively listening and paying attention to what your kids are saying, you are giving them the same respect you expect in return.
Modeling is also a good way to build emotional literacy in your little ones. When parents or caregivers respond positively to children’s actions, they will be better prepared to understand their own emotions and respond to them in a positive way.
Engage children with different nursery rhymes, and when always possible, read aloud to them. This will help them develop phonological awareness, which it is a significant predictor of future literacy and school performance.
When you read a nursery rhyme aloud to children, the act of repeating the sounds helps them improve their listening skills and speaking abilities, and the rhythm helps with fluency.
As per my experience, every time I engaged in reading story aloud to children, they would actively engage with the story and listen.
Sing to your child.
You don’t need to be a professional singer or be on key to provide children with different musical experiences.
For instance: sing a lullaby or play around with your child’s favorite song by changing the lyrics—you will be surprised how they react or how engaged they become.
Take the kiddo to a music class for his/her age group such as Music Together or Kindermusik.
Better yet, take out your iPod or music box with kid-friendly songs and encourage children to sing along and dance.
Children will engage with the lyrics and soon build their listening abilities.
4. Hearing Test
A hearing test is painless for children, and for each age group, the screening is slightly different.
For the most part, babies get their first screening before leaving the hospital. If children are exposed to risk factors or have predisposition, it is often recommended by specialists.
However, if you as a parent, caregiver, or anyone related to a child spot red flags with the little one’s behavior, that might be a sign to see a specialist.
Some signs to watch out for: your baby is unresponsive to any noise, especially the startling type, your toddler is unresponsive when called by her/his name, or your preschooler is always saying “what,” to respond to someone’s question or statement. Also if he or she has problems following simple directions such as “Go get that ball,” or “Please give me that book,” it’s time to take action.
When talking about listening, the last scenario is more common than you might think. Remember the child I mentioned in the beginning of the post, who had problems listening?
Later on, after days of absence from school, we found out he had ear surgery. Needless to say, when he returned, my coworker and I saw a stark contrast in demeanor after the surgery was done.
It costs nothing to be proactive. The next time you feel frustrated that your child is not listening, take a deep breath, think of the strategies, and know that you are not alone.