Build good listening skills in toddlers

Liz Donnelly discusses listening and your toddler with Laura Morley from Toddler Talk.

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Games to develop listening skills

Here are easy activities to help very young children with their listening skills. 

Children learn through play, so make sure these activities are full of fun!

Start with listening to sounds only, progress to listening to 'sounds and signals', then 'sounds and instructions'.  

Happy listening everyone!

 Learn to: listen to sounds

 Listening Walk: Take a walk around your house or outside your home.  Stop.  Ask your child ‘What can you hear?’  Praise them often for efforts at listening.

Listening Sit: Sit down with your child and both shut your eyes – listen for sounds.  Give your child time to listen to the sound for at least 30 seconds – ask them ‘What can you hear’ and praise every effort they make.

Action Noises: Have your child shut their eyes or sit where they can’t see you.  Make a familiar noise (for example clap your hands).  Encourage your child to copy you.

Animal Noises: Take animal toys and encourage your child to make the animal sounds with you.  Do one noise at a time and give your child time to process what they’re hearing.

 Learn to: listen to sounds & signals

Hide and Seek: This is a good game to get your child used to listening for signals – call to them, use a whistle or handclap to cue them to where you’re hiding.  Gradually make the game harder.

Using Pictures: Point to pictures of familiar things and ask your child ‘Who says Woof’ ‘What goes brmmm brmmm’. 

Listening for No Noise: Using a toy car or truck, sit opposite your child and encourage them to push the car when you make the noise (‘brmmm’ ‘brmmm’).  When you stop making the noise the child stops pushing the car.  Extend on this by using several types of vehicles, so the child has to choose which one makes what noise.


How can we build a castle together if we can't listen to each other?


Learn to: listen to sounds & instructions

 Simon Says: This is a game with some quite complex concepts.  The adult uses ‘Simon Says…’ as a command for simple movements; the child not only has to follow these instructions, but at the same time work out when not to do it!

At the farm: Take some toys and make a scene, for example a farmyard.  Give your child directions – ‘Make the farmer feed the cows’ ‘Make the boy ride on the truck’.  Next time change one component of the sentence ‘Make the farmer feed the sheep’ ‘Make the girl ride on the truck’.

Stop and Start: Have your child stand down one end of the room.  Tell them this is a stop start game and they need to listen for when you clap your hands – their cue to stop.  Call a direction to run, hop, or crawl to you.  Stop their movement by signalling a clap – the child must stop exactly where they are.  Call a different direction and stop them again.

Information compiled by Liz Donnelly; games created by an Early Intervention Teacher and Speech Language Therapist - the eardrops education advisors. 

More from eardrops:

Listening is our access to understanding

I know we bang on about this! But I really believe that although listening is an essential life skill there is not enough focus on it for our children. Ask a teacher and they will likely tell you that most children as they start school are not equipped with the listening skills they need to learn effectively.

According to sound expert Julian Treasure, we spend roughly 60% of our communication time listening.

Listening is our access to understanding. We really do need to know how to listen. 

He discusses why listening is our access to understanding, and why its essential to learn how to listen, and offers ways to listen in this fascinating TED talk.

Take a listen!

Liz xx 


For you next:

My middle son Carter loves Eardrop, and has loved the stories from 2 onwards. He said ‘goat’ for the first time after hearing Sounds of the Country only once. This was actually one of his first words, because he was a late speaker. Carter used to sing the theme tune constantly, and now little Macs (just over one) perks up when he hears it.
— Natalie, Dusseldorf