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.
Now that summer is here, sand and water play are back on the agenda, plus lots of outside games. Here's a simple activity to encourage letter recognition and exploring.
- Go out and find lots of pebbles and little stones. Wash them together and clean them up. Dry them in the sunshine.
- Once dry, mark each one with an indelible pen with a lower case letter of the alphabet on one side.
- Once the ink is dry, select a few pebbles that make up some easy words: pig, dog, cat, cow. Head off into the garden or sand pit and hide the pebbles.
- Ask your little one to try and find them and name each of the letters. If they are good at this and recognise the letter, see if they can name the letters and make the sounds.
- Show how the letters make up the words and eventually they will be able to do this alone!
As little ones become more familiar with letters and their sounds and their shapes, encourage them to practice and learn with this simple activity that will help their literacy, writing and sounds...as well as giving them a great sense of achievement.
Take a note book and on each page write a letter, starting from letter 'a' on page one to letter 'z' on page 26 so you end up with a book that runs the whole alphabet from a-z. Use lower case letters. If your child is able to write letters themselves, get them to write the letters.
Gather magazines, brochures, family photos, spare stickers anything with pictures on them. Decide on which page each picture should go on. For example, a picture of apples on the 'a' page, bananas on the 'b' page. Fill up the whole book.
Use the book to practice sounds and to look through together naming all the objects in the pictures.
Toddlers may be too young to be able to play word games, but as soon as they start talking, you can play sound games based on word games that older children enjoy! Here are some fun ideas:-
- I-Spy: Rather than playing I-Spy for words beginning with letters, play I-Spy for things beginning with sounds. For example, I-Spy with my little eye, something beginning with 'TR' (for 'tree'), 'K' (for car) or 'Sh' (for sheep)
- Alphabet Animals: Go through the alphabet giving the sound for each letter and ask your little one to name an animal beginning with that sound. Couple this with a trip to a petting farm or zoo where they can learn new animal names!
- Word Chains: Look around and say the name of something that you see. Then have your little one say a word that begins with the sound of the last letter. For example, you might start with Table, then your toddler must offer a word beginning with 'L', perhaps Lamp. Then you say a word beginning with 'P' and so on...
- Sounding Words: Take words and sound them out with your toddler so that they begin to understand sounds and syllables. This will give them a head start when they start to learn spelling phonetically at school! Trak-ter, spag-ett-ee, okt-o-puss, tel-er-vish-un and so on. Have your little one sound out words for objects they see in the room.
These games are great to play when you have to pass time, perhaps when you are waiting at the doctor's or dentist's, on a car journey, or queuing at the supermarket.
Rhyming words can be great fun for children - they make the words they say, and new words they learn, sound happy and sing-song! The easiest words to rhyme are short words of one syllable, words like pig, dig; fat, cat, far car, see, me.
How to introduce rhyming games:
Nursery Rhymes - Get hold of some nursery rhyme books and have some fun learning and acting them out. Dress up as the characters and act the words.
Make up your own rhymes - Change the words to existing rhymes to make them your own. Add in the name of your child if you can as that will be very exciting for them!
Find a Rhyme - Find things that rhyme. So, hold a block and go find a clock. Hold a pen and find a picture of a hen!
Word Catch - Think of a word: 'go' for example. Throw or roll a ball to each other and as you get the ball, you have to say a word that rhymes with the first word. Go, so, throw, row, tow, bow etc. See how far you can go,then change the word.
Word swap - purposely swap words around that rhyme and try to guess the proper word. So, say something like, I am hungry; I need my 'bunch'. And, try and get your little one to guess you mean 'lunch'!
There are times when you want a game that will occupy the children for a few minutes, and 'I spy...' has to be one of the best loved! The game probably originated in the USA in the early 20th century, and its original form is:-
I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with... [and the player names a letter]
Everyone else then has to guess what the object is. You can play variants of this game with younger children who don't yet know their alphabet. Here are our favorite variations:-
I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with... [followed by the sound of the start of the word, but not necessarily a letter, eg. 'Cl' for 'Clock']
I spy, with my little eye, something that is... [followed by a color, eg. green, for a green tree]
I hear, with my little ear, something that goes... [and mimic a noise, eg. 'tick tock' for a clock]
This is a great little learning game that helps to learn colours, sounds or letters, and the kids love it! It's great to keep kids entertained in confined spaces, such as on a journey, or in a restaurant, and it's fun to play with the whole family. Do you play any other variants of 'I spy...' that you can share with everyone?
Babies can distinguish your voice even before they can focus and see you properly. It is remarkable that within three years of birth, they have begun to master language to the extent that they themselves can talk and converse in sentences. Babies and toddlers learn language simply by absorbing what is around them and by mimicking sounds. You may feel daft talking to your baby constantly, but it is so important to do so because they are constantly listening and learning. Make sure that you explain what you are doing and where you are going - they can understand much of what you say before they are able to communicate back. Talk with your babies and toddlers constantly while you undertake ToucanLearn activities with them, every little bit will help with their own mastering of language and communication.