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Teaching Children Active Listening Skills

With the many distractions that our current world has, it is crucial more than ever to practice active listening skills!   

Listening is a critical part of the learning process, especially the ability to listen to others actively. The ability to listen actively impacts not only a student’s ability to learn but is an important impact on building communication skills needed both in the classroom and outside of it.   

As crucial as active listening is to the classroom, it also improves other skills, such as problem-solving, leadership, and teamwork.   

Active listening can look like a few things, and it can look like providing your full attention to a speaker to understand better the complete message being presented. Additionally, active listeners will give verbal and nonverbal signs of listening. A few examples of verbal cues you can provide are positive reinforcement, remembering and reciting back, and asking follow-up questions for clarification. Nonverbal cues may include smiling or head nods to offer reassurance and avoiding common distractions, such as cell phones.  

An essential part of active listening is acknowledging the other person’s point of view and being able to repeat back a summarization of what you understood.  

As your child is learning active listening, it is important to explain what distractions are and why we limit them.    

Distractions often lead to passive listening. Passive listening usually means that the conversation recipient is not listening to understand what the speaker is saying fully. Students who passively listen don’t retain information because they are easily distracted.   

How can you help your child improve their listening skills?   

Practice it in your everyday routine   

This can look like this:   

  • giving your full attention to your child   
  • making eye contact and stopping other things you are doing   
  • repeating back what they are saying and what they may be feeling to make sure you understand   

   

Encourage your child to repeat the speaker’s words and ask follow-up questions.   

Another way to listen intently and retain information is to ask questions about the content. To practice this skill with your child, try reading a story with them and ask questions at the end, encouraging them to ask any questions along the way if they feel lost.   

Play Listening Games   

Children love games! “What was that sound?” is an exercise popular with children and easy to set up. Have them close their eyes, and you play a sound. It could be an animal, a car horn, a teapot whistling, or anything that comes to mind! Have them listen carefully and describe what they hear.    

Another game that is easy to play with few supplies is a drawing exercise. Give your child paper and crayons and ask them to listen as you describe a scene. They can listen to your description and draw what they hear as you go along. It’s fun to see what they come up with! Simon Says is also a great game!    

You can also incorporate listening games into everyday chores, such as asking your child to help you follow a recipe while preparing dinner.   

Communicate Clearly   

Try giving instructions slowly when asking your child to complete tasks. You avoid overwhelming them or losing their attention by presenting tasks one at a time. This can also be referred to as “chunking” learning material to help break it down.   

Provide Alternative Solutions  

Discuss the importance of waiting for their turn to speak, as their first instinct may be to interrupt to make a comment or ask a question. Help them understand how interrupting a person speaking may make a person feel, and give them alternatives, such as raising their hand in class or waiting until the person finishes their thought.   

More activities to try at home:   

  • Read stories at home. Ask your child to try to predict what might happen next.   
  • Cook something. Read the recipe to your child and have your child listen to and follow each step to complete the recipe correctly together.  
  • Have conversations about things your child is interested in. This allows your child to engage in a real discussion, practicing speaking and listening.   
  • Create a list of questions with your child for them to ask you or a sibling. After one person has answered, see how many the other can remember. Switch roles and see how well the other person does.   

  

The Nest Schools incorporates teaching this skill in numerous ways. From our main curriculum activities to our three enrichment programs, specifically our Art of Living program, we introduce the importance of actively listening to and understanding others.   

In our Paints and Pianos and Fit Buddies program, children also practice active listening while listening to their teacher’s instructions.   

The listening games and activities that children play throughout each weekly learning plan promote, among many other skills, active listening with our children. For example: playing Simon says, lead me there, charades, and draw what you hear are all activities your child will experience throughout the year that encourage them to use their active listening skills amongst their peers.   

Children often struggle to show that they are actively listening, an often-overlooked skill in the classroom. Learning to use their active listening skills can often include several benefits! Not only do students exhibit better comprehension, but eventually, they can become better problem-solvers and overall communicators throughout their life.