Speech-language pathologists wear many hats in the area of child development. In addition to diagnosing and treating speech and language disorders, we are equally qualified to treat and diagnosis auditory processing disorders. Listening and speaking skills go hand-in-hand, especially when working with our early childhood population. We know that a complete therapy session for this age group will focus on both speaking and listening skills in order for your child to increase in both areas.
Fortunately, there are many activities you can do right at home to build your child's listening skills. And my favorite part about these activities, you are probably already doing many of them and you don't even know it! Our simple, yet effective, strategies below will give you guidance on how to work with your own child on this important skill. Note:These activities are designed for the birth-preschool population, but can be beneficial to all kiddos.
Talk to your child all the time. Describe everything you are doing. Almost all of your household chores are enriched with language concepts. Folding laundry? Talk about how it was wet and now is dry. Talk about finding the matches for the socks, let them help. Talk about folding it in half. Talk about separating the things that are alike and different. The opportunities are numerous and your toddler will LOVE helping!
Make reading an interactive activity. When reading a book, ask your child to stop and think about what will happen next. Ask him/her to explain why he/she thinks that. This may take guidance and coaching at first, and that's ok! The more you engage with your books and discuss them, it will become easier for them to think these questions through on their own. In fact, ditch those books every so often and make up stories, together. Ask your child what they want the story to be about, ask them what characters they want in it, and then go! Use your imagination and have fun.
Revisit your child's favorite books often. Believe me, it gets old for you as the adult to read the same book over and over again, but your child is learning the nuances of the story and our language through repetitious practice. To see if they are listening, change the story up and see if they catch it.
Listen to stories. Even if your child is of age to read on his/her own, I highly encourage you to continue reading out loud to them. While in the car, put on a you tube story telling video, maybe a familiar story so they can hear it and think about it.
Make up rhymes. This is an important skill that I feel is often overlooked. Rhymes teach our kids that words and sounds can be manipulated and played with. Point out why they rhyme. Fat-Cat-Bat only the beginning sound is different, the end stays the same. This may work best with some paper and a pen or chalkboard to show at first.
Listen to their music. Find music that calls out motions and movement to have your child follow along and act out. Make up a songs. Sing songs in the car to pass the time. Music is a powerful tool at this age.
Role-play. Get out all the dress-up clothes. Even if you use your clothes, let them act out anything they want. Take turns performing and act out a familiar story or routine. Puppets are also a great addition to this activity.
Watch a video or show together. Yes, let your child watch TV or videos. My one golden rule for this age group is to know what is going on so you can discuss it. Shows like Daniel Tiger or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse are designed for participation. Ask your child after the show is over to tell you what the characters are saying and doing. These shows give parents a big platform to connect with our children, if we take a few minutes to show some interest in it and discuss it with them. We love to discuss our favorite books and shows with our friends, our kids are no different! They want to talk about these characters and events. Let's give them a chance to!
Play a listening game. Games like "Simon Says" and "Follow the Leader" are great for this. There are also so many songs that incorporate this skill into them. Do a you tube search for songs that incorporate gross motor skills and you will have one interested toddler/preschooler on your hands!
Give these simple activities a try and see how your child's listening (and speaking) skills begin to develop and take shape. If you notice during these activities, that your child is struggling to catch on after several times, please give us a call to discuss in detail what you are experiencing. We would be happy to schedule an evaluation to assess where your child is in the development of his/her language skills.