Guest post by Steph of Problem Solving Mom

After hearing myself say the phrase, “Did you hear me?!” followed by “Are you listening?” for what felt like the hundredth time the other day, I came to the realization that a strategy change was in order.  What I was doing (expecting my 3 year old to know how to listen when she was busy doing something else) clearly wasn’t working so well.

I firmly believe in the concepts from books like Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline and Positive Discipline – our children aren’t born knowing how to act or react to situations, they learn from watching the behavior we model (and really, should we expect them to behave more maturely than many adults?). Misbehavior can be an opportunity to teach if we can remember to take a deep breath before we react.

So the first thing I needed to remember was to demonstrate good listening skills myself.  No more half listening while changing a diaper or making dinner. If I needed to finish something before I could listen, I was going to try and remember to say so.

Next I needed to teach my daughter how to listen and help her practice. I find it’s more effective to teach and practice something by making it a game!

Here are five of our favorite games to play our way to better listeners:

  1. Playing StoreHere we are playing store. We set up the room accordingly and take turns playing the employee and customer.  This is a good way to practice listening as well as manners, counting, colors, and many other concepts you might be working on.  It’s also a fun way to foster creativity and vocabulary.
  2. Simon Says – At just barely 3, my daughter still doesn’t quite understand the concept of Simon Says, but we’re working on it.  Even so, this is a great way to practice listening.  We take turns being Simon and following directions.  Eventually she will be listening for the distinction of what Simon is saying.  This can be great exercise as well, and is a fun way to review body parts and descriptors like above, behind, over, etc.
  3. Telephone – This old classic is a great game for a group.  For younger children, it is also a way to practice whispering.
  4. Scavenger Hunt – Depending on ages, this can be verbal and written or picture oriented.  My daughter loves Map from Dora the Explorer, so we use a combination of verbal and picture clues.  I let her set up maps for me to follow as well.  Each time I include special instructions for her to remember, such as, “When you find the second clue, be sure to bring it to me and give your sister a kiss.  Then look for the third clue.”
  5. Story Mix Up – When telling familiar stories, I will make changes to see if my daughter is listening.  She almost always catches me, but if not I sneak in even more outlandish changes until she does!

What tips do you have for improving listening skills?  I’m always looking for new ideas!

Steph shares her problem solvin’ approach to parenting and life at Problem Solvin Mom. She can often be found playing with her two girls in the kitchen or at the craft table, and sometimes on twitter as @psmom.