Listening is a hugely important skill as it helps children interpret instructions. Given that early schooling is highly verbal, it is essential to master listening early on. Here are some games to help improve listening skills with your children:-
Colour Story: Give each child a different coloured building brick. Tell a story and weave the colours into the story. Each time a child hears there colour, have them wave their brick in the air.
Name that Sound: Make sounds and have your children name them. For example, make a siren sound, the noise of an aeroplane, horses hooves, birdsong and so on.
Shopping Game: Take up to 20 store cupboard food items or play food and lay them out on the floor. Tell each child a list of three items that you want from the shop and have them walk over to the food, pick out their three items and bring them to you. Play rounds increasing the length of the list each time.
Simon Says: You must know this old classic? Instruct children to perform an action prefixed with 'Simon Says...'. 'Simon Says "Touch your nose"', 'Simon says "Twist around"'. Any command without 'Simon Says' must be ignored.
Happy Endings: Tell the first part of a story and have your children each make up a different ending to the story. Either read from a book, or make up your own short stories.
How can you encourage a healthy and enthusiastic learner and good personal, social and emotional development? There is so much that can be done in the home and in the childcare setting to encourage effective PSED. Here are just a few ideas that can be incorporated into your typical day.
- Play games; take turns and play by the rules.
- Share things; share out snacks or toys or bricks and encourage little ones to do so as well.
- Go to local places of interest, history museums or galleries.
- Look at programmes from theatre or festivals visits. Or pick up leaflets from places of interest and local history museums. Look through the information/booklets together when you get home.
- Take photos when out and about and look back a the photos together. Recall the day, where you were, who was with you what happened etc.
- Listen to what your child wants to talk about, especially if they are anxious or worried about something. It may seem tiny to us, but a little problem can escalate.
- Encourage lots of questions and exploring when out and about.
For many children, loud noises are a real problem - sirens, fireworks, hand driers, vacuum cleaners, train engines make them cry or they say it hurts their ears. But, a fear of loud noises is perfectly normal in little children and even if it seems unreasonable to be scared of something we know is harmless, we need to deal with any fears as gently as possible so so not to make it worse.
New born babies show a reflex to a sudden noise, so fear of noise is an innate characteristic. As humans, we are "programmed" to be wary of anything loud and threatening so it is normal to have a fear.
Part of the reason children fear loud noise is that is that they simply don't understand what the noise is and they feel scared of that unknown. It also shocks them if it comes out of the blue so that startles them too.
- Try not to expose children to unnecessary noise.
- Be calm when they get anxious and show them that everything is okay.
- Don't try to make them "face" their fear by exposing them to noise. This will not help and will actually aggravate the problem.
- Talk about the noises and why they happen.
- Don't laugh so mock their fears.
- Let them touch the vacuum cleaner before you turn it on it might help.
- Discuss how you might cope with the noise together.
Make it into a game:
- Each time you hear a firework, shout whoosh bang! back at the firework.
- Each time you hear a siren chat about what it could be. Use characters and ideas you child will appreciate. Is it a fire engine saving a family of mice in a tree?; an ambulance rescuing a princess who has fallen down a hill or a police car catching baddies?
- When you hear the noise, you have to clap or say hooray! The first person each time, wins a prize!
Research suggests that of all the children in reception classes in UK schools, nearly half of them have poor language skills. This is an astounding figure and Early Years Practitioners are doing so much to attempt to help those children with their language and communication. The difficulty is not helped by the fact that children coming from nursery into schools are all at different levels of speech and communication so each child may need slightly different emphasis when it comes to helping their individual needs.
Communication is vital in various areas of development within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Communication is a two way process and we must listen as well as talk. Communication between children themselves is also important because if one child cannot be understood, it can lead to further problems and frustrations.
ICAN (the charity that supports speech and communication) claims that over 2.7 million children have difficulties communicating. There are various ways that teaching practitioners can assist with general group activities as well as individual attention.
How to improve communication with general group activities:
- Make sure there is lots of interaction between childcare providers and children
- Practice listening skills between both children and teaching staff
- Introduce rhymes and songs and tell stories
- Use props such as pictures and puppets and musical instruments, talk about them and describe them
- Teach signing actions in groups
- Introduce discussion topics and games
The gulf between 'hearing' and 'listening' is to our ears what 'looking' and 'seeing' is to our eyes! We looked at 'looking' and 'seeing' in yesterday's post where we learned that looking is passive but seeing is active, processing visual information into a world of understanding. In the same way, we can hear noise, but in order to understand, we have to listen, that is to interpret the noise into aural communication.
Teaching our children to listen is another foundation for learning. Early on we need them to listen to our own instructions when we tell them to do, or not to do, things. Later in life, our children will have to listen in their school environment so that they benefit from the learning being offered. If all they do is hear noise, the babble of their teachers and classmates, then they won't understand and won't learn.
ToucanLearn's 'thinking' activities help to train your baby's to both look and listen in fun ways. Follow your child's learning program in ToucanLearn and they'll be set to excel when they reach school!
Nursery rhymes have their place, but don't forget to also introduce your children to the music you like to listen to! If your thing is classical music, then get them listening to Mozart. If you prefer ABBA, then have a dance to Mamma Mia! Get up and have a boogy too - especially if no one is looking!
Music can have a calming effect. Babies respond to music in the womb, even before they are born and even more so when they are newborn. Play something soothing and sit comfortably to listen together. When baby is trying to sleep, some nice quiet music can help to set the mood.
And, if your little ones get to like the music you like, it means when you're on a long journey you'll be able to listen to your musical choices and not endure endless hours of "Old McDonald Had A Farm", "Wheels On The Bus" and other classic, but nonetheless tiresome, nursery rhymes as you drive. Instead, you'll be singing along to music you all like!