Children begin to listen before they are born, according to Indiana University of Pennsylvania education professor Mary Renck Jalongo, in a presentation posted on the website for the International Listening Association. According to Jalongo, children are able to listen to sounds outside the womb when the mother is in her fifth month of pregnancy. In addition, Jalongo reports fetus's brain development is affected by sounds they hear. Once children are born, several interactive games, songs and other activities can transition children from simply hearing to actively hearing what is said and responding accordingly.
Songs and Games
Games and songs are excellent ways to help children improve their listening skills, according to the article "Listen and Learn" posted on the Leicestershire County Council's website. The activities need to be interactive to promote listening skills. One such game is Simon says, in which the participants should only respond to each command if the leader precedes it with the words, "Simon says." Games such as Simon says require listening skills and promote the strengthening of those skills. Interactive songs can also encourage listening by using the child's name or some funny rhyme about the child's pet or something else she can relate to. For example, singing the verse, "I went to Sally's house, and she was out to play, but her cat Freddie invited me to stay!" Children love to hear about themselves and will tune in to discover what happens next in the song about them.
BabyCenter.com's website reports that children exposed to lots of conversation develop listening skills. Narrating activities as they occur, asking the child questions and responding to the child's questions will promote listening. For example, while baking a cake, narration might include, "I have to get three eggs from the refrigerator and put them into the mix, without the shells." This keeps the child tuned into what is being done because he is listening to the narration.
Asking children to guess what happens next in a story promotes listening skills, according to BabyCenter.com. When a new book is being read to a child, she can be asked what she thinks will happen next, before the page is turned. This works with small children with picture books and older children with chapter books. Once the child gives an answer, ask her to explain why she believes that will happen. This demonstrates whether she has listened to the story to that point. If not, go back a couple of pages and read it again, then ask her.
Silly Directions Game
At the SchoolFamily.com website, the article, "Simple Activities to Improve Your Child's Listening Skills," suggests playing a fun direction game. Tell the child to "Hop on one foot to the counter and eat a cookie, then walk backward to the front door and ring the doorbell." Make the directions fun and silly to keep children laughing and engaged in listening. The game should last 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the children's age and maturity level.
What's That Sound?
A nonreading method to strengthen a child's listening skills is the game called what's that sound? A child closes her eyes or is blindfolded. Sounds are produced one at a time while the child is asked to name them. For example, a broom is swished against the floor and the child is asked what she heard before moving to the next sound.