Are you old enough to remember Jackanory? I used to love that programme. I could make all the images from the story in my head. It was pure magic. You had to listen to the story without the added images. My imagination could take me wherever I wanted to go.
Are we doing our children a dis-service by not giving them the chance to reach into their own imaginations and just listen to stories?
Don't get me wrong, I think the images children now have available are amazing and so believable. But if you ask a child what Cinderella looks like, they will most likely describe the Disney version of the character. All well and good, but should we not try to encourage some different images. Images that are special to them.
Learning to listen is not just important for imagination, it is a vital skill for communication. Listening and attention skills are vital in a child's development because they allow the child to share their views and be responsive to the views and feelings of others.
We all need active listening to be able to process information. All of our relationships we make in life hinge on communication. So how do we help our children gain these necessary tools and ensure he or she has well-developed listening skills, as well as improving their attention span?
The first thing we can do as adults is to model good communication skills. Make eye contact when you speak to your child and give them your full attention when you can. I know that's not always possible, but just be mindful to do it when you can.
If a child has problems listening, there could be either a medical issue or a developmental issue. But that should not stop us trying to help develop their listening skills. There can be many reasons for a child’s lack of listening skills. I know with my grandson, who has cerebral palsy, he often needs time to process what he has heard. If I am giving him instruction then I will ask him to repeat what I have said. This gives him the time that he needs.
But he does enjoy playing listening games.
Playing with puppets.
Playing games that involve listening are always fun.
Try asking your child to close their eyes and imagine their favourite food. Then ask them to describe the food without naming it. Now you can describe your favourite food without saying what it is. Ask your child to guess what you are thinking about.
Simon Says is always a favourite. You have to listen out for the key words before you can act.
Reading stories, and then stopping and asking what has just happened. But don't just restrict your story telling to reading from a book. Tell a story - it can be anything - something that is personal to them or a favourite story from your childhood. You'll be surprised at just how many times they want to hear the same story over and over again.
Stop - Go games.
Tell a story together. You say the first part of the story and encourage your child to carry on the next part. Then you add a bit more to the story an so on. This encourages your child to listen to the part of the story that has come before.
Plan regular listening activities into your week.
So how can you support your child with limited attention and listening skills?
Reduce distractions such as background music or noise. And don't forget to make eye contact.
Be aware of too much visual stimulation when you want them to listen. If they are busy on their kindle or laptop, chances are you won't be heard.
Gain your child’s attention by saying their name before giving an instruction. Make sure that they are engaged.
Keep your instructions simple and use visual cues such as photos, objects and gestures.
Use your child’s interests to engage and motivate them. Start a in depth conversation.
Have realistic expectations and give specific praise for good listening.
But back to the story listening
Use Audio tapes more. You can get these from the library or look for them on-line.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolradio has Listen and Play, which is a great resource for listening to stories for younger children.
https://www.storynory.com has some great audio stories for children of all ages.
https://lightupyourbrain.com/stories another good site for listening to stories
https://www.storiestogrowby.org lots of fairy tales and fables here
There are lots more on-line but these are the ones we use a lot.
Listening is important. Sometimes even adults don't have all the skills needed to be active listeners.
Let's help our children become more active listeners.