Good listening and attention skills are the foundation of all speech and language development. A child needs to listen to sounds around him, to speech sounds, to words and to sentences before he can learn to speak for himself and also needs a good attention span before he can begin to understand language.
Many young children have a short attention span and those with communication difficulties may have particular problem with concentration. Attention is the basis to all learning and children must learn to ‘listen’ and ‘look’ appropriately and to control their focus of attention. With OFSTED recently reporting that over a third of children are starting at school without the basic skills they need to learn, it cannot be underestimated how important these skills are in setting your little one in good stead for future learning.
How do I know that a child has listening and attention difficulties?
The following behaviours can be indicative of listening and attention problems, either in isolation of a combination of many:
- easily distracted
- find it difficult to listen in noisy environments
- find it difficult to follow verbal instructions
- have slow or delayed responses
- have co-ordination problems
- withdraw or become aggressive
- appear to ignore you
- can’t sit still
- won’t settle to play with one toy
There can be reasons for this e.g. poor hearing, ear infections, illness or attention deficit disorder. If you have any worries or concerns speak to your GP or health visitor.
What can I do to help?
Here are a few ideas to try at home with your little ones to encourage good listening and attention.
Read a story to your child then talk about it afterwards and ask a few questions to see how much they’ve remembered. Don’t worry if they can’t answer, just look back at the pages together and talk about what you have read.
With pre-schoolers try games like ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ or ‘Who stole the honeypot?’ These are good for encouraging listening and are great fun with lots of squeals when it’s time to be chased by Mr Wolf or bear!
Try playing musical statues or bumps, encouraging your little ones to listen for the music stopping. This works well if they’re a bit grumpy or in need of burning off some energy!
For younger ones, grab a few things from the kitchen that make a noise pot and wooden spoon, bottle with some rice or pasta in it and let them have fun listening to different sounds. Try to encourage them to copy the number or pattern of the sounds you make too this will help with their attention skills as well as their listening.
At Talking Tots we encourage good listening and attention skills throughout our weekly classes. Parents are encouraged to work one-to-one with their child while teaching them to sit and await instructions, respond to their own name, take turns with their peers and play together. Activities include pushing a large ball from child to child, but only once they are instructed which child to pass it to. It may sound simple but it works