Discuss and Practice Good Eye Contact
I think the ability to communicate while having good eye contact is a fairly universal problem these days. (We’re all so busy looking at our phones or other devices!) Approach a conversation about eye contact with humility. Especially if you know that you are also guilty of “multi-task” listening to your children. To be honest, this was me, until my youngest said to me one day: You never look at me when you speak to me”. I know this to be true because of my ADHD I always multitask. It hit me so hard that I took a conscious decision to leave everything when he speak to me again.
One fun way to teach this skill is to bring the concept up through games
Ask your child to tell you about something they care about (dinosaur facts, their video game, gymnastics, etc.) The first time they tell you, have your phone out and listen to them while looking at your phone. Then, try again but this time making eye contact. Next, switch roles and have your child try the experiment on you. After you have both taken turns, take a moment to talk about what felt better – having eye contact or not. Ask if they felt like you were listening when you were looking at your phone. Ask if they felt like it was easier to hear and understand what you had to say while they were making eye contact with you.
Make an agreement to both work on eye contact while communicating. Set a phrase that will help get your attention so that you know that your child wants you to listen (or vice versa.)
Discuss and Practice Taking Turns
There is a game called “The Talking Stick”. The idea is that when someone has the talking stick it is their turn to talk. Everyone else listens. The stick is shared, and everyone gets a turn to speak. For some children, this can be a really helpful concept. This is also a great exercise for those impulsive children.
Find an object that can represent a talking stick. Practice using it to take turns talking and listening. When you find yourself in a heated situation where you want your child to work on their listening skills, pull out that object. See if it calms and neutralizes the situation.
Through listening activities for children, you can enter into your child’s world, gain a deeper understanding of who your child is, and build a better connection. Great listening skills start with connection.
Be the boss
Allow your child to be the boss while you play together for a set amount of time. Your child will tell you what to play and how to play. This is excellent to help you understand how your child views your parenting instructions, and it gives you an opportunity to model listening for your child.
Grab a few dolls and sit down with your child. Have one doll be the mom or teacher and one doll is the child. Take turns playing with each doll and practicing pretend talking and listening. Choose a scenario with the dolls to mirror an area you are struggling with at home. Allow your child to take the lead.
Take turns whispering in each other’s ears and repeating back what you say to one another. Instead of making it one work, like the typical telephone game, use 3-4 short sentences for your child to repeat back. Continue practicing and sharing silly or pretend stories.
Turn of the light game
Turn out all the lights and listen carefully to all the sounds you hear. Get very quiet and whisper to each other what you are hearing. Walk through the house with a flashlight, put your ears against doors and windows, or make sounds yourself. Then name or describe each sound to each other.
Hunt the sound
Take your children on an outdoor sound hunt to help them listen carefully to the sounds outside, naming all the sounds they hear. It’s a creative game inspired by Dr. Seuss!
Listen and find word search
This game is perfect for children who don’t want to read aloud. Let your child read and you need to listen to certain words your child has chosen. This game builds their confidence. After their confidence builds, they will be much more apt to read aloud.
Do three things
When children don’t like to clean up toys after they are done playing, play the game Do Three Things. They get very excited about this game that they often keep “cleaning” after all the toys are picked up. So creative!
Listening activity with blocks
This listening activity with blocks works well with younger and early school-aged children together. If they are learning colours or counting, this game is a perfect fit for that too. All you need is coloured wooden blocks or legos are fine too. You can use this in colour or pattern sequences.
Listen and draw
Drawing is a great calming activity for children, but you can also use it to build listening skills. Describe a picture to your child. Share as many details as possible while your child listens. Then ask your child to draw the picture as you described it. You can describe a simple picture for younger children and a highly detailed picture for older children.
This works well with a group of younger children together. Sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or “Ring Around the Rosey” to help them listen to the song and follow the directions.