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How Well Does Your Baby Listen?

A very young child will recognise and listen for its parent's voice or another well-known voice and respond positively with a smile or gesture. So how can we encourage our little one to keep listening to us as they grow in independence?

10 Ways To Promote Great listening Skills

We've been talking a lot about communication skills and how important it is to talk to your child and encourage their language development haven't we?

Well, there's another skill that's just as important that we can also work on from a very young age - and that's listening.

I hear many parents bemoaning that fact that their toddler never listens to them, but I often wonder whether those parents have ever given their kids reason to listen.

Listening is quite natural from babyhood.

A very young child will recognise and listen for its parent's voice or another well-known voice and respond positively with a smile or gesture. So how can we encourage our little one to keep listening to us as they grow in independence?

1. Get down to their level:

Children are not stupid and they soon learn that they can ignore the first few asks if it's something they don't want to do, before mum or dad is likely to follow through with their request. So if you want immediate compliance, don't be lazy and shout your request from the comfort of your sofa. If something is important enough for you to make the request, let the kids know you're serious and mean business. This doesn't mean shouting, but it does mean getting close up, bending the knee to make your face at their level and make your request pleasantly, seriously and firmly - expecting compliance.

2. Keep language developmentally appropriate:

Now this is really easy once you get the hang of it and it makes so much sense. Never give a child a negative command. Let me explain. There will be times when you want them to respond immediately, especially if you see a danger that they do not. At these time you need to tell them in an instant what they must do. At these moments it's no good saying 'Don't ...' it just doesn't work you must tell them what you want them to do if you require an immediate reaction. For instance if the pavement is slippery with ice, the command should be 'Walk' not 'Don't run'. Children will process this command and respond. 'Don't run' is not telling them what they must do 'walk' is making it quite clear.

3. Make your requests in a respectful and child friendly tone

It's hard to do this sometimes, but also, it is pointless getting angry all the time (save that for when it's really necessary) If you shout all the time, your child will begin to think it's the norm. And not only will they still fail to respond, but they'll start to shout too. Much better to use a firm but friendly tone for maximum response.

4. Model Good Listening.

Be a role model for good listening by showing that you are listening to your child. You can do this easily by imitating and reflecting back what your child says. Intersperse a few questions, but try not to interrupt. Encourage family conversations at mealtime, allowing everyone to take their turn.

5. Make listening fun.

Use games and playful language to teach your child to listen. Play games such as "Simon Says" with the whole family and then use this game at other times when your child is less likely to listen (e.g., If it's time to get dressed say, "Simon says put your hands up" and then slip his/her shirt on). Keep it fun and effective by alternating between funny directions (e.g., stick out your tongue) and things you want your child to do.

6. Ask questions

'Whats', 'hows' and 'whys'. This not only encourages listening skills but also helps to develop imagination, reason and logic. Use these questions when reading together, when going somewhere new or learning a new skill.

• Why do you think the bear in our story is sad?

• What will happen to the ice cream if we don't put it in the freezer?

• How can we get all these bricks to fit back in the box?

7. Play games describe person or object -

Describe an object using familiar and the occasional new word. Build up the description and encourage a guess at each stage.

For example

"I'm thinking of something red. (Can you guess?)

It has lots of wheels. (Guess)

The driver wears a helmet. (Guess)

You may see a ladder on the top. (Guess)

Once they get the idea, reverse rolls and let your kids give the description.

8. Listen and respond games.

This is another great way to get your child to listen to detail. Play the 'find me' game.

• Please get something red from your bedroom.

• Please get something red and soft from your bedroom.

• Please get something red, soft and round from your bedroom.

Gradually increase the difficulty of things you want them to find, so that they need to listen carefully.

As usual reverse the roles when they grasp the idea of the game.

This sort of game is great because it costs you nothing, you can play it anywhere with anyone and you can change it constantly so that they don't get bored. It's a great memory game as well as a listening game.

9. Books and music. as well as reading yourself

Reading stories is one of the best and easiest ways to encourage your child to listen. Doesn't always have to be you. Get an older child to read to a younger one and make maximum use of CD's or talking books.

It's fun, sometimes to tell an old familiar story but make funny changes - see if they can spot them and say 'why' they are silly. This always goes down well as kids love 'nonsense' stories and rhymes.

10. Listen and memorise.

This is great fun and you'll be amazed how well they listen and remember when you say...

"Remind me to take you to .............. tomorrow."

"When we go shopping, remind me to buy some chocolate."

"Remember to tell Daddy......................... when he gets home from work".

It's so important for your child to be able to really listen because it's a vital part of the communication skills they'll will need when they start school. So it's something to work at constantly.

Barbara Fyles

Early Years Expert and Author of "I Don't Want My Baby To Start School"

"...your child only has once chance to make a great start. Let's make sure we get it right - together."

Barbara Fyles is both parent, grandparent and has 30 years practical experience as an Early Years Teacher. She is a published author of 'I Don't Want My Baby To Start School', which is a hands on programme dedicated to helping parents help their children to succeed in the early years at school, and help both children and parents cope with the stress of this life changing experience.