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Family Activities
Improving Listening Skills

Often, we believe that children are not doing what we ask of them, either because they are stubborn or don’t want to do as we ask. But, young children generally like to please the important adults in their lives. They just aren’t listening well and don’t hear directions. Here are some fun listening skills activities to do with your child.

Shhh… What Do You Hear?

Help your child learn to listen carefully.

  • Go for a walk and ask children to identify the different sounds they hear—natural or human-made. Can they tell from which direction the sound is coming? For example, they may hear the garbage truck coming from behind them or they may hear a bird sitting in the tree across the street.

  • Ask your child to sit quietly anywhere in your home with eyes closed. What sounds does he or she hear—other people talking, the radio or television, the refrigerator turning on, or water running?

  • Have your child close his or her eyes and identify the different sounds you make—ringing a bell, tapping a pencil, clicking a ballpoint pen, unzipping a zipper.

Keep track of the sounds your child identifies. Continue playing “Shhh…What do you hear?” to show how your child’s ability to listen, focus, and tell sounds apart from each other and their direction improves.

Play “Simon Says”

This simple game of “follow the leader” requires children to listen carefully. They must hear you say “Simon Says,” not just copy what you do. This helps children focus on the verbal, not just the visual. For example, if you put your hands over your ears and say, “cover your ears,” and they follow you, the game ends. But, if you put your hands over your ears and say, “Simon Says cover your ears,” and they do it, the game continues.

For older children, make the directions more complex—clap your hands and hop on one foot; or, give directions more quickly—always reminding them to move only when they hear “Simon Says.”

Play “Boogie Band Studio”

Boogie Band Studio

Building Blocks has a great way to help children focus, with their eyes and ears—“Boogie Band Studio.”

Select the setting—easy, medium, or hard. Then, have children watch and listen to repeat the order, or sequence, of the musical lights and sounds. The better they focus and pay attention, the longer the sequence they can follow.

Then, challenge them to listen carefully to identify the sounds that represent each character—Ali’s keyboard, Kristi’s flute, Miguel’s bass, Mee’s guitar, Wally’s trumpet, Sandy’s saxophone, and Thurgood’s drum.

Try building and following your own sound sequences. Set out several noise-making tools—a spoon and pot, a bell, a drum, a pencil and wooden block, a metal clacker. Then, create a sequence of sounds and have your child repeat the sequence in order. Continue adding sounds to the sequence to make your child focus harder and longer. Take turns being the bandleader—letting your child make up his or her own sequence for you to follow. Make sure children repeat their sequences correctly as they challenge you to continue following their lead.

Fun in the Kitchen

Children learn just how important it is to follow directions carefully, and in the correct sequence, when they are following a recipe. Recipes can have only a few steps or many steps, but your meal will be very different if you leave a step out or put them in the wrong order. Here’s a simple sequence for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

  1. Get out the bread, peanut butter, and jelly.
  2. Toast the bread. (optional)
  3. Place one slice of bread on a plate.
  4. Spread the peanut butter on top of the bread on the plate.
  5. Spread the jelly on top of the peanut butter.
  6. Place the second slice of bread on top of the peanut butter and jelly spread.
  7. Enjoy your peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Let children talk about what might happen if they toasted the bread after they spread the peanut butter and jelly on it. What would be different? What if they forgot to complete step 4? Would they still have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

Want to work on your own listening skills? Take the Building  Blocks Active Listening Skills Quiz!

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Updated on 4/5/2013