FLASHCARD for making Glenn Doman and Shichida
Available in our online store.
Your Tot to Listen
What and how a child speaks depends on what he
hears from the language environment around him.
Here is how to hone the listening skills of your
Lai-Chua BA, B.SocSc
This article was first published in Motherhood
magazine in June 1995. The Wee Care Baby Institute
and Early Education and Preschool Centre provides
programmes that encourage listening skills in
young children aged 0-24mo and 2-6yo respectively.
For more information, please visit website at
I know of a four-year-old
Singaporean girl, who speaks with an American accent
because her mother says, "she has a keen ear and
listens to all these laser discs from the States."
At the same time, I teach a boy whose speech was once
mottled by the noises of adventure cartoons - "Hee-ah!
Ke-poosh! Pow! Destroy!"
These examples point to an important
fact - what and how a child speaks depend on what he
hears from the language environment around him. I have
thrown my hands up in despair many a time at my limitations
in getting students to speak Standard English rather
than Singlish. I mean, after all, that is what they
hear from their family and friends around-the-clock.
Now, while I am not advocating that
parents strive to make their children sound like little
Margaret Thatchers, I am insisting that they seek to
provide the right kinds of verbal input for their children.
This is especially important during the formative infant
and toddler years when language development is at a
Additionally, parents should work towards
helping their child to listen well. How often, for example,
have you found yourself repeating something over and
over again to your toddler who subsequently ignores
you or does the exact opposite of what you asked? Behavioural
issues aside, there are times when the problem simply
lies in the child not having heard what was said accurately
A number of factors form the basis
of good listening. These include auditory attention,
auditory discrimination, auditory comprehension and
Auditory attention refers to the ability
to heed the most relevant sounds in the environment
and a significant number of children have difficulty
with this. They are more concerned with the roar of
a bus, a bird's chirping or other extraneous sounds
than the on-going conversation.
While the world can be an exciting
place for a young child, the inability to attend to
important auditory signals can be disruptive and highly
frustrating to the parent who is trying to teach the
child something. These phrases - "Listen to me.
I am talking to you", "Are you listening to
me or not?" - may be too familiar for comfort.
When auditory attention is very much
impaired, children may be diagnosed as having an attention
deficit disorder. This can manifest itself in hyperactivity
and sometimes be misinterpreted as flagrant disobedience.
Unfortunately, the disorder can also stall language
Parents can use a number of game techniques
to enhance auditory attention in their child. The two
which I describe here should be taken as general guidelines
for other creative games.
1. Clever Jack
Clever Jack (a jack-in-the-box) is
played by the child who listens as a adult reads off
a list of words. This list includes keywords; say,
animals, toys or words beginning with the letter "b".
Whenever a keyword is uttered, the child must execute
a jumping-jack for a point to be earned. A prize is
awarded for reaching the pre-agreed criterion of pints
(say, seven out of 10 keywords noticed). This criterion
itself can be increased as the child becomes more
did I say?
This game requires more preparation
on the part of the parent who must make a recording
of clearly-worded instructions against some background
noise (for example, when soft music is playing, along
a slightly busy road, at the playground). When the
tape is played for the child, points are awarded on
the basis of how many instructions are needed. Or
for more coherence and fun, these instructions can
lead to the discovery of a hidden object, or they
can teach the child to build or draw something.
Auditory discrimination is necessary to differentiate
between words which sound alike. I am sure that all
of us have had problems spelling a word or name over
the telephone before; how "b" sounds like
"d" and "s" like "f"!
Children who do not discriminate well when they listen
may suddenly find themselves with strange information.
For instance, a girl once heard me say, "The door
fell from the chair" when I had said, "The
doll fell from the chair." Another time, I told
a student to "get the (toy) tree" and she
cam back with a magnetic number three!
Frequently, problems like these arise because parents
themselves do not pronounce their words clearly and
so children grow up not making the mental distinction
because they have never heard any in the first place!
But apart from modifying their own speech, parents can
also send their child for formal speech lessons or,
as a much cheaper alternative, "practice"
The gorillas of a particular jungle want to drive
out the humans who have invaded their territory but
they cannot do this without the humans' language and
plans. They go to Mr Owl who teaches them.
Mr Owl begins with single words. He places pairs
of objects at one end of the field. These objects
are common to human life and they sound alike; for
example, bun-gun, ball-doll, rope-soap, etc.
The gorillas take turns. They must run and pick out
the object which Mr Owl calls out to them one by one.
Only those gorillas who make the grade (four out of
five words correctly picked) can be trusted enough
to be in the invading army.
I say it right?
There can be some variation to this game but the main
principle is for the adult to say something wrong
once in a while for the child to correct. The adult
can, for example, say a wrong word while telling a
story. Alternatively, he could rattle a string of
un-associated sentences which may be silly or right;
for example, "I am going to red (bed)."
Auditory comprehension relates to understanding
the meaning of what has been spoken. Obviously, this
is contingent on the child's age and stage of language
growth. Two-year-olds are usually documented to have
a vocabulary of at least 25 words, four-year-olds have
a significantly larger vocabulary which allows them
to enjoy simple stories.
Increasing a child's vocabulary often lies in providing
a rich source of good linguistic information. I know
a mother who refused to baby-talk to her daughter, and
by the time this girl was four, she was speaking better
than the many six-year-olds I knew!
Personally, I have also discovered that story-telling
helps in expanding a child's vocabulary. Stories have
the benefit of showing in picture-form what can be an
abstract idea. One boy I taught, for instance, had trouble
understanding what a dream was until I showed him about
a girl who had a dream about a dragon. The dragon was
always put within a bubble and thereafter, Peter could
report his dreams to his mother every morning!
Another activity a parent can engage in with his child
is "Pictures". This is similar to story-telling
in a way. The object of "Pictures" is to get
the child to identify the right picture for a given
word, phrase, action or concept. Even difficult verb-time
meanings can be expressed and taught using a sequence
of pictures; such as "will drink" - "drinking"
- "has drunk".
Auditory memory is a term that is given for the ability
to hold, in memory, what has been heard. This skill
is involved in, for instance, remembering a friend's
telephone number or address before scribbling it down.
Children who have problems with auditory memory appear
to be disobedient but the sad fact is that they have
simply forgotten what has been told to them. Deficits
in auditory memory can also hinder normal language development.
After all, if a child quickly forgets the words and
phrases he hears others use, how could he possibly use
them himself the next time round?
To train up auditory memory, a parent must help his
child learn strategies to keep increasing mounts of
information in mental store for increasing periods of
time. This can be accomplished through mnemonic devices.
Two that are suitable for children are repetition ("repeat
what you want to remember many times") and music-action
cues ("I am a teapot, short and stout…").
Parents can also play games with their children which
require the use of auditory memory on a consistent basis.
The adult hides an appealing object
somewhere in the house. He gives the child verbal
directions to uncover the object. For increasing difficulty,
the adult can give two-part or three-part directions
at one go, "up the stairs and down the hall".
Older children may even be blindfolded. And as the
name has it, the child who finds the object gets to
The child is a parrot who must say,
in exact imitation, all that his master says. Obviously,
the challenge of this game is for the child to repeat
increasing lengths of utterances. For even greater
difficulty, the parrot may be asked to repeat the
sentence only after a break of three to five minutes.
Reproduced with permission. Article from www.weecare.com.sg.
The Wee Care Baby Institute and Early
Education and Preschool Centre provides programmes that
encourage listening skills in young children aged 0-24mo
and 2-6yo respectively. For more information, please
visit website at www.weecare.com.sg.
Disclaimer: The information
appearing on BayB Supplies.net is presented for educational
purposes only. While the information published on
this site is believed to be accurate, it is not intended
to substitute for professional medical advice. If
you have questions or concerns regarding your physical
or mental health or the health of your child, please
seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider.
Please read here for Disclaimer