80% of school involves listening, so one of the most important skills a child can develop to do well in school and beyond is the ability to listen carefully and effectively. Try these activities to get listening skills off to a good start in your infant or young child. My thanks to Carol Lau for the fun title of this blog.
Baby Talk Rocks – infants – I hope no one ever told you not to talk “baby-talk” to your young child because infants do not have the ability to “listen” to adult-like sentences very well and most parents naturally modify their talk to children in appropriate ways. Hold your little baby in your lap about 12 inches away from your face (young babies do not have very good distance vision and are naturally attracted to faces.) Touch your baby’s nose, then mouth, then ears and each time you touch say something like, “You are so cute, you have mommy’s nose. Here is your nose (then touch your own nose and say) this is mommy’s nose.” Do the same thing for each part of the baby’s face you touch and use any kind of speech that comes natural to you – whatever you feel like saying will be just fine. You can then do the same thing while you gently touch your baby’s arm or leg or tummy.
WHY? Babies are naturally very interested in their mother or father and their own body. And, more important, an infant is naturally interested in learning from you – brain researchers call that the Mirror Neuron System. Babies also love to be held, to be talked to and paid attention to, so your infant will hang on every word you say as long as the infant can see you and hear your voice. You cannot spend too much time talking and playing with your infant, and we know from research by Dr. Catherine Snow, that baby-talk is a universal way that parent s get their baby’s attention and build important listening networks in the brain. Baby-talk away!
Sing Sing Sing - Nursery Songs build listening skills – Toddlers – “Old MacDonald had a Farm” may be one of the best nursery songs for building listening skills in young children because often their brain is a little better at processing long sounds like those in the environment (the honk of a car, for example) or animal sounds than speech sounds. The “moo-moo” of the cow, the “Meow” of the cat, the “oink-oink” of the pig, the “neigh-neigh” of the horse, the “quack-quack” of the duck and the “woof-woof” of the dog actually help introduce your young child to some easy-to-hear speech sounds like “m”, “k”, and “f” through melody. Another great early ‘sound’ song with environmental sounds is “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round.”
WHY? Research by Gaab and Tallal shows that building your child’s interest in sounds and melody actually prepares the brain well for building important listening skills for later learning. Humans are the only animals (aside from birds) who love music. And the music pathways in the brain are shared with many aspects of language and social skills, so building an interest in melody as well as sounds prepares your child for all aspects of listening. And a bonus is that many people who are good at both music and language end up being very good public speakers. So – sing away.
Sound Ideas – building an interest in speech sounds and music early builds the brain pathways essential for social skills, listening in school, and public speaking.