Our children are the products of our very visual world. Surrounded by televisions, iPads, gaming consoles, computers, and Smartphones, their ability to listen patiently has suffered greatly. Listening is the key to following directions and developing the ability to remember concepts. It lays the foundation stones for success in school and in life, as it is the first step in developing good communication skills.

Listening involves many different aspects:

  1. Alertness: At what level is your child’s awareness of sound?
  2. Auditory acuity: How well does he hear?
  3. Sequencing: Is he able to identify the order of what he hears?
  4. Discrimination: Can he distinguish similarities and differences in sounds?
  5. Figure-ground: Can he isolate one sound from a background of sounds?
  6. Memory: Can he remember what he hears? Is he able to retrieve that information?
  7. Sound-symbol: Is he able to connect a sound to a particular written symbol?
  8. Perception: Does he comprehend what he hears?

(Adapted from Pamela Strickland, 1993, Auditory Processes, Revised Edition, Academic Therapy Publication)

Using games to teach effective listening to children is a fun way to develop auditory skills, exercise the brain’s auditory centres, and promote retention of academic content, while being fun and interesting. Games also help children to develop new vocabulary and recognize correct grammar.

Here is a list of games you can use to develop effective listening skills in your children:

  1. Copycat: Tap or clap a short rhythm pattern for your child to repeat (such as two slow claps, and then two fast claps). When your child catches on, vary the timing and loudness of taps to make new rhythm patterns.
  2. That’s Silly: Take turns making statements that have a silly mistake in them, such as “the washing machine washes dishes”, or “cars have four legs”, “the Nasheed was too loud, so I turned it up”. You could also tell a familiar story and make a deliberate mistake. For example, in telling the story of Prophet Nooh (as), you could say that he built a jet. See if your child can spot the mistake.
  3. Simon Says: This is a classic game where you call out directions that must be followed only if the instructions starts off with “Simon says…”. Start with single directions. Increase them to multiple instructions such as “use your right hand to touch your left knee” or “jump three times and then turn around”. Also, come up with a more motivating or creative character than Simon!
  4. Telephone Number Game: Pretend you are calling your friend, using an unplugged telephone to add interest. Take turns to make up strings of numbers for the other to repeat. Start with one number, working up to four digits. Try adding more than four according to ability and age.
  5. I Went to the Zoo: This game is played by saying, “I went to the zoo and saw a lion”. Your child now has to repeat the sentence and add another animal. The game continues this way till someone makes a mistake. For example, “I went to the zoo and saw a lion, bear, monkey…”
  6. Hide and Seek: Hide a small toy or treat, and use simple directions to help your child locate it. Emphasize that finding the treasure hinges on their ability to listen to you.
  7. Sounds Detective: After covering his eyes, ask your child to find out what sound you are making. Some ideas are:
  • Squeaking a leather chair
  • Opening a microwave
  • Closing a closet door
  • Getting a spoon out of the drawer
  • Turning pages of a book
  • Opening a curtain
  • Unzipping a zipper on a jacket
  • Various animal sounds
  1. Story Detective: When you have finished reading a story, ask your child five questions about the story that can only be answered if your child was listening well. Go back through and find the clues that were missed to help your child practise the art of recalling.
  2. Red Light, Green Light: Once your child gets the hang of the concept green-means-go and red-means-stop, call out red or green to make him stop or go. Add in another color to make it more fun, such as purple light for jumping like a frog, yellow light for crawling, orange for clapping, and blue for twirling. For younger kids, coloured cards can be made which can slowly be taken away so that your child plays JUST by listening.
  3. Obstacle Courses: Set up an obstacle course with tables, cushions, and chairs and give directions on exactly how to go through it. For example, jump over the table, crawl under the chair, and so on.
  4. Listen for a Specific Word: Ask the child to clap when they hear you say a specific word. For example, while reading a story about cats, ask them to clap every time they hear the word “whiskers”. You could also read a familiar nursery rhyme to your child and leave out a word. He must recognize which word is missing.
  5. Listen to the Sequence: Have a selection of objects or a set of coloured bricks. Call out a sequence, such as “blue, green, red”, and ask your child to set up the blocks in that order. Start off with 2-3 and keep increasing the number, as he gets better.
  6. Odd One Out: Say a list of words where one is different, for example: dog-cat-biscuit or trousers-chair-jacket. See if the child can tell you which is the odd one out and why. Start with three words and gradually increase the number.
  7. Make a Story: Start off a story by saying the first sentence. Have your child repeat the sentence and adds another sentence to the story. Turn then passes on to the next player who does the same. This game not only improves the memory, but also encourages children to be creative in storytelling.
  8. Communication: Sit back-to-back with your child, each of you with your own box of Lego or blocks. One of you will be the caller and the other the listener. The caller keeps calling out instructions, while making the same with his set of blocks. The listener has to listen carefully and follow the instructions. At the end, they compare what they have made! This game can also be played with paper and pen.
  9. Twenty Questions: Older children can hone their listening skills by asking twenty questions to figure out a famous person, place, or object that you have thought of. Impress upon your children that listening and connecting the information shared is the key to success.

Model the Behaviour!

It is important to listen to your children if you want them to listen to you!

  • Get down to your child’s level and obtain eye contact.
  • Give your child your full attention by turning your body towards them, just like Prophet Muhammad (sa) used to do. Stop what you are doing to reduce any distractions for you and your child.
  • Avoid interrupting your child when he is talking, and listen carefully to what they have to say.
  • Give positive reinforcement with nods, smiles, sounds, supportive words, and gestures.
  • Be clear and concise when giving instructions.

Praise and reward your child for good listening strategies and for responding after the first instruction.