Summer is a relaxed time in many households. Stringent school schedules are gone and children are often not in structured environments. But I found with my own children that relaxed schedules sometimes translated into “relaxed listening.” By the end of the summer, I often found myself repeating requests as my children casually paid attention. Of course, with school starting around the corner, these “hit-or-miss” listening skills my children were displaying concerned me. Perhaps you are experiencing the same situation in your summer household.
Auditory processing refers to the ability to understand and process spoken language. It means that children can tune in and respond to what they hear. Of course, as with any skill, practice makes perfect. And with “listening skills,” often children just get out of practice! So here are some fun activities to help your child hone his auditory processing skills before school starts again in a few weeks. (And you will also appreciate your child’s renewed ability to listen the first time when you give a direction, as well!)
1. Ask your child to play a “Color-by-direction” game. This is similar to the standard “color-by-number” activity, except that your child colors a picture from a coloring book by following your verbal directions. It is more fun if the directions are silly and unexpected, such as “Color the boy’s hair green” or “Put red and yellow stripes on the tree trunk.”
2. Play your own version of “Guess Who!” Collect pictures of relatives, friends, or celebrities that your child knows. Show your child the pictures and then name specific qualities about one person. Your clues or descriptions may be seen on the picture or may just be information about that person that is familiar to your child. (“This person always tells knock-knock jokes.”) Your child must listen to the clues to decide which person you are describing.
3. Buy a new (and inexpensive) game to play with your child. Read the directions first to be sure that you understand the rules. Then explain how to play the game to your child and have fun playing together.
4. Play a “List Building” game. Create a list with your child by alternately adding a word to the list. For example, take turns naming your relatives and see how long the list can be. Your child will have to listen carefully so that he does not repeat a name you mention. Or you can list favorite foods, favorite toys, etc. The only rule is that a word cannot be “played” (added to the list) twice.
5. Play “I Spy” with your child. You can make this game as easy or difficult as you like, depending on the item that is spied and the clues that you give. Perhaps there are several blue books on the shelf and you spy the one that has yellow letters on the binding. This beauty of this game is that it can be played in short time segments and in any place that you like. So take advantage of time spent waiting for an appointment with your child or waiting to pick up an older sibling from camp and play “I Spy!”
6. Read aloud a new picture book to your child. After you have finished, ask some questions about the story. Let your child know before you begin that you will be discussing the story after it is read. Talk about specific elements of the plot, the characters’ behaviors and their feelings.
7. Print off some colorful worksheets suitable for preschool or kindergarten aged children (look for those that are specifically designed to hone a child’s listening skills) and complete them with your child. For example, consider using some worksheets on following multi-step directions to help your child practice his great listening skills
8. Visit the library and borrow some books with audio tapes. Your child can enjoy listening to stories on his own when you are not available to read to him. Ask your child to tell you about the book after he hears it. Perhaps he can retell the story without looking at the pictures for hints.
9. Let your child help when shopping at the grocery. Direct him to find specific items on a shelf and bring them to your cart. You can increase the difficulty of this game by describing the package without naming the item to see if your child can recognize what you are asking for.
10. Ask for help when your return from the grocery store. Give your child verbal directions for putting the food items away in the cupboard and refrigerator. Tell him exactly how you want the items stored (“all soup cans go on the second shelf,” for example) to provide opportunities to listen to specific instructions.