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How to Improve Listening Skills in Children

By Ashlyn Etree ; Updated April 18, 2017

The ability to listen effectively is a critical life skill. Without active listening and processing information, communication falters. Personal and professional relationships hinge on communication. To equip your child with the necessary tools to be a successful person, ensure he has well-developed listening skills. While actively working with your child to improve his listening skills, you will also help his attention span and ability to concentrate. There are a variety of ways to improve listening skills in children during all stages of development.

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Test your child's hearing. As your child develops during his first year of life, play close attention to his reactions to audible stimuli, such as your voice or noisy toys. If you think your child is not responding, discuss this with your child's pediatrician. If your child's hearing is impaired, the sooner you know, the sooner you can alter your approach to teaching him to listen.

Read to your young child to improve his listening skills. Children enjoy hearing stories. However, a young child's behavior when listening to a story often baffles parents. Instead of sitting quietly and listening, the child is playing with other toys. It's important to realize this child is likely listening. He just hasn't learned appropriate reading etiquette yet. As time passes, you can teach him to sit next to you and remain quiet. In the meantime, keep reading.

Engage your child in conversation to improve his listening skills. Children are not born knowing how to converse. It is a skill they must learn. It is also one rare skill a child cannot effectively learn using modern gadgets and electronic toys. It is a skill that requires at least one other person. Ask your child about his day or an activity he recently completed. During pauses, acknowledge what he said by asking questions. Show him you are listening. Then choose a simple example from your day to tell him about. Encourage him to ask questions.

Teach active listening to improve listening skills in your child. Active listening skills include making eye contact, using nonverbal communication such as nodding, and repeating points back to the speaker for clarification. As your child matures, explain the difference between passively hearing and actively listening. For example, we can hear music, but we must listen to someone giving directions. Talk about active listening skills and practice them in conversation with your child.

Turn off the television and video games to improve listening skills in your child. Television and video games stream information to people at remarkable speeds. This requires us to quickly filter massive amounts of information to catch pertinent points of data without cognitively digesting the information. For a child, this can be counterproductive. After hours of bright, flashing lights and loud, zany noises, how are we to expect a high school student to sit through an algebra class and pay attention. There's nothing wrong with a little TV and video games, but add concentration activities, such as reading, playing card games, putting a puzzle together or working on a crossword. Better concentration will lead to better listening.


Reinforce your child's efforts to listen. Provide weekly rewards for listening carefully and following directions. This will increase your child's desire to focus and listen. Always use a calm, nonthreatening tone when speaking with your child. This encourages your child to listen by avoiding fear and apprehension as distractions.


Never scold your child for asking questions or sharing during a conversation. While you want to teach your child about taking turns when speaking, you never want your child to feel bad about participating in conversation. Feeling inconsequential in a conversation may lead your child to give up listening.

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About the Author

Ashlyn Etree was all business as a PR professional for 10 years, but she loves rolling up her sleeves volunteering at animal rescues. She writes for various publications, specializing in business, career and pet-related content. Etree earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Central Florida.

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