By Michelle Mady
Children are fantastic beings with so many amazing abilities; I am constantly in awe of their presence. But there is one skill that I wish children could master a little sooner. Without this skill, I start to lose sight of all the amazing things that they can do.
That skill? It’s listening.
I can’t tell you how many times over the past 18 years of parenting I have had to repeat myself. As a preschool and toddler teacher I can’t count the number of times I have been fully ignored.
As a preschool and toddler teacher I can’t count the number of times I have been fully ignored.
I get it, though. Kids are not inherently wonderful listeners. But in the moment? It can be the toughest parenting moment.
What if I told you there are some ways to support (and even increase) listening skills in children? Honestly, these games and tips are not going to make your child follow every direction given - I mean, they are not robots - but it will help to lessen the amount of times you are ignored and flex those listening muscles.
There are so many backyard-type games that can support and increase listening skills. Some of them are old-time favorites, like “Mother May I?” or “Red Light, Green Light.”
Try a new spin on those games and play “What Time Is It Mr. Fox?” “What Time is it, Mr. Fox?” is played much like “Mother May I?” where children line up, ask Mr. Fox what time it is, and they respond with a time and action. For example, “It is 5 o’clock, so take 5 tiny steps forward.” When the children reach Mr. Fox, they yell “It’s Lunch Time!” and a round of tag ensues. Whoever is tagged is the next Mr. Fox.
Make sure they follow the directions given by Mr. Fox or else they have to go back to the starting line! They will be sure to listen closely so they can get close to Mr. Fox.
What is Missing? Game
This is a fun game that can be played many ways, and children don’t realize how attentive they become during the game, making it a great time to make really tricky answers.
Put out three toy animals, for example, a duck, a cow and a pig. Make two animal sounds, leaving one out, and ask your child to find what’s missing. Go faster or slower with the sounds, and add more or less animals to meet your child’s needs.
Did you know visual cues can also help children with their ability to follow directions and listen? Play the same game, showing your child a few items. Then cover them with a blanket or piece of cloth. Then take one away with the blanket and ask them what is missing. This also strengthens deductive reasoning - win/win!
Visual cues can also help children with their ability to follow directions and listen.
This might sound counterproductive, but children are more attentive and interested in what you have to say when you get quieter. Start talking to them in a normal voice, then get really quiet.
This works especially well when it’s been a DAY and you might need a tool to help keep your cool. Get down to a whisper, and you will feel their energy match that whisper, and you are way more likely to have your message heard with the volume change.
Children are just not great direction followers, but it’s really because they are figuring out this whole world and how it works with very little prior experience. Knowing that helps parents to understand, but it doesn’t help get through to the next task. Take a minute and play a listening game, strengthening their skills and also your bond.
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.