Activate Your Kids’ Listening Skills!

Active listening is important for learning, friendships, and school success because it helps kids follow directions, take in information, and is a huge part of being a friend. Active listening can be hard for kids because they are still developing the regulation skills they need to listen and pay attention. Here are some ways to give kids opportunities to practice this important skill.

Use pre-teaching and explain in clear language what active listening is.

Active listening for kids means paying attention when someone is talking and not interrupting. You can explain active listening in clear simple language to let kids know why it’s important. For example, “We show respect and care by giving our attention to others and actively listening to them”. You can also tell kids what active listening looks like and what their bodies should be doing, such as:

    • Eyes on the person talking
    • Listening ears on, hearing what the person is saying
    • Voice off while the person is talking
    • Calm body, standing still

Use pre-teaching to remind children to use active listening when opportunities come up. For example, before you start a bedtime story, remind your child to actively listen and have their eyes on you and voice off while you are reading.

Intentionally model active listening in role plays or your everyday routine.

Kids learn so much from seeing adults do things!  After explaining what active listening is, intentionally model it so kids can see what it looks like.

Role plays are a fun way to model.  Tell your child that you are going to show them what active listening looks like. Ask your child to talk to you about something (e.g., their day, a book they read, or anything). As they talk, model having your eyes on them, not interrupting, nodding, and listening to what they are saying.

After showing them, ask questions to get them thinking about how to listen actively. For example:

    • Did you notice my eyes were on you the whole time you were talking?
    • Did I start talking over you?
    • Did it feel like I was listening to you? How could you tell?
    • Does it feel good when you feel listened to?

You can also do a role-play where you aren’t actively listening, don’t have your eyes on them, and are interrupting to model what it feels like when someone isn’t listening.

Afterward you could ask them questions like:

    • Was that active listening?
    • Were my eyes on you? Was I talking when you were talking?
    • How did that feel? Did you feel like I was listening to you?

End the role-play by showing them or reminding them what active listening actually looks like, then switch roles and have them show you active listening while you talk.

Check out another one of our posts for more ideas on how to model active listening.

Practice by embedding active listening into everyday activities.  

You can help your child practice active listening during car rides, meal times, while playing, reading, etc. Any conversation can be turned into practice for active listening with reminders and encouragement.  Here are some other ideas:

    • Prompt your child to use their active listening when it comes up naturally. By just reminding your child to use the skill beforehand you are setting them up to practice the skill. For example:
        • If you are eating dinner as a family, you might use pre-teaching before dinner to remind everyone to use their active listening when others are talking about their day.
        • If you are about to tell your child something you want them to do, you might prompt them to use their active listening.
    • Reading to your child is a great time to practice active listening.
        • Check out this post for tips on how to embed active listening with books.
    • Play some games with your child to practice active listening! You can even encourage them to use active listening while giving them the directions to a new game.
    • “Catch” your child using active listening! This will reinforce the skills they are practicing and encourage them to keep it up.
        • For example, “I saw your eyes on your sister the whole time she was talking and you kept your voice off until she was done.  Nice job using your listening skills!”

The more practice kids get with any skill, the more progress they make! Be intentional with modeling active listening and finding little opportunities to practice during activities you are already doing. And check out our future posts for more ideas and activities to help kids practice skills and behaviors!


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