Remember how kids played I Spy before the days of Walter Wick?
Usually played on long highway rides during summer vacation, in those days it was you, a few siblings, and a sharp pair of eyes. The object of the game was to find a particular object – a license plate with a particular number, a certain car model, or a landmark.
This listening game is like I Spy with a twist: instead of looking for a noun (car, doll, book) your child will look for an object that fits the description you give.
Let’s say, for example, that you choose the word “thin.” Your child’s job will be to find an object that fits that description. In doing so she not only learns new vocabulary words, but she learns to listen carefully and discriminate between the word thin and other words that are similar, such as “small” or “narrow.”
-index cards with descriptive words written on them
List A List B List C
big hot broad heavy bitter fragrant
small cold narrow light sweet odorless
rough short thick soft sour flat
smooth tall thin hard salty curved
How to Play:
1. Place the cards face down on a flat surface. If your child is familiar with I Spy, explain that this game is similar to I Spy.
2. Ask your child to pull one card, and read it aloud for them.
3. Tell them to look around the room (or several rooms), and to try and find something that’s like the word on the card.
4. If your child is unfamiliar with a word or has difficulty, simply find an item in the house and show them how the word they drew fits.
TIP: You can make this game harder by giving your child a set time to find the item in the house. If your child’s language skills are really weak, pair them with a sibling or a friend, and allow them to work as a team to find objects.
One of my favorite ways of improving my children’s learning skills is through books. Books are great for exposing your child to topics they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about, which is especially important for kids with language delays, who tend to be very weak in the kind of knowledge that other kids pick up just from their environment.
Still, I’m always cooking up new ways to use books, and today I have a new hands on learning activity that’s a good sequencing activity, and that helps improve your preschooler’s listening skills.
For this game, you’ll need a copy of Antoinette Portis’ book Not in a Box. I enjoyed the simplicity of this book, which makes the pictures clear and easy to understand for younger bunch, since some of them do have language delays. In the book, a rabbit finds a box, and manages to turn the box into a race car, a mountain, a burning building, and a robot before the story ends.
Every time he makes something creative from his box, he is asked “Why are you sitting in/standing on that box?” Your child will work on her listening skills by following along and sequencing the various items that the rabbit created.
How to play the game:
1. Read the story once through to your children, pointing to the pictures and naming the various objects that the rabbit created. Make sure your child repeats after you the names of each object, and points to the picture. Doing this encourages your child to use her visual system to support her weak auditory skills.
2. Go back to the beginning of the story, and name the first 2 objects that the rabbit created. Have your child repeat the names after you.
3. Then close the book, and ask your child to see if he can remember the names of those 2 items. If your child has trouble, you can give him a hint by saying part of the word out loud, letting your child fill in the blanks.
4. Continue going through the book this way, asking your child to remember one new item at a time, until she memorizes all of the items.
TIP: You can make this game easier by xeroxing the pictures, cutting them out, and letting your child sequence the pictures instead of having to verbally tell you what the items were.
You can make this game harder by having your child name the items forwards and backwards.
More fun stuff: You can extend this activity by helping your child create their own “Not a Box” story. Simply find a decent-sized box, take pictures of your child “creating,” and print them out on regular printer paper. You can ask your child to tell you the text as you write it down.
Good listening skills are critical in childhood. They form the basis for your child’s ability to learn and communicate with others. But did you know that good listening starts with the ability to distinguish between different sounds?
While most of us take for granted the ability to understand what we hear easily and quickly, for children with weak language development it can be quite difficult. Younger children might mix up words that sound alike, while older children might have trouble pairing words with the same beginning or ending sounds. In the long term, this difficulty also makes it harder for your child to learn how to read and write effectively.
You can help your toddler or preschooler improve their listening skills with this easy to make hands on learning game. It helps build your child’s listening skills at one of the most basic levels – discriminating between different sounds- in an engaging manner.
- 8 small containers (film containers are best, but in this day of digital cameras, they might be hard to find. You could ask a film developing shop for some, or you can substitute plastic salt shakers)
- 2 sheets of construction paper, one red and one blue (if the canisters are not opaque)
- 4 different types of materials to put inside (possibilities: salt, sugar, sand, pea gravel, dried beans, rice-anything that makes a sound is fair game!)
- Glue gun
- A shoe box or other container to store it in.
- 8 picture stickers, 2 of each kind
1. If your canisters are not opaque, you’ll need to cover the container so that the contents aren’t visible. You could spray paint the outside (quickest, but a little messy), or you can cut a piece of construction paper so that it fits inside or outside the container. Hot glue it on so that it stays put, and so that little hands aren’t tempted to peel it off.
You should have 4 red containers and 4 blue containers (or whatever 2 high contrast colors you choose).
2. Add the material. Each material should be placed in two containers, one red and one blue.
3. Hot glue each container closed. If you’re using a salt shaker, seal the holes of the shaker as well.
4. On the BOTTOM of each matching container, place a matching sticker. So on the containers that contain sand, you’ll put matching stickers of turtles, for example. This is called control of error, because it lets your child know if the two are match, without her having to ask you. More fun for them, less bother for you J.
1. Place the red containers on the right side of your child, and the blue ones on the left.
2. Let your child take one container from the right side. Have him shake it, encouraging him to listen to the sound carefully.
3. Next, have him choose a container from the blue containers. Encourage him to shake it, and compare the sound to the other container.
4. Ask him, “Are they the same?”
5. Have him check the bottoms of the containers to see if the stickers are the same. If they are, praise him verbally. If not, have him try again.
TIP: You can make this game easier or harder, by varying the types of materials you put in the containers.
So for example, you can put in 4 very different types of materials (easier) or 4 similar types of materials (harder).
This hands-on learning game is great for improving your child's auditory processing skills. Children who have auditory processing issues need to first learn to pay attention to what they hear before they try to improve their auditory memory or sequencing skills.
This game is fun, and uses the natural medium of language to improve listening skills. Give your child a treat by making a treasure hunt where they find a small treat or toy hidden in the house, and you will add to the fun and indirectly improve their sequencing skills. You can also choose to reward your child with a small treat after every three correct answers; a chocolate chip, raisin, or other small treat is fine.
I have found that not only do kids beg me to "play" with them, but their brothers and sisters also demand a turn!
Choose a song:
Your child will listen to a song and follow along as it is sung, using pictures as an aid. The song you choose will depend on the age of your child and the severity of his auditory processing issues. For children ages 4-6 the best types of songs are traditional nursery rhymes. You can also try popular children's artists such as Raffi.
For children 6 and up,singers such as John Lithgow and Hap Palmer are good choices: the songs consist of more than one sentence, offer a refrain, are interesting, and have catchy tunes.Teenagers and adults can use folk tunes, or any other song, as long as there is some sort of story being told;one-liners don't offer any complexity.
Create a presentation:
Next, you will create pictures to go with the song. These pictures will help your child "hear" what is in the song, since they offer visual support (their strength) to an auditory activity (their weakness). You will need to make pictures of all the nouns; in later songs you can add verbs. There is no need to add the words.
The first time you play a song, help your child follow along by pointing to the words as the song is sung. This helps the child to become more familiar with the song.
After that, your child can follow along on his own. If it is too hard, you can stop the song after each pictiure. In this case you'd be using a really easy song with a slow pace and not more than 4-6 different pictures.
You can also sing along with the song, emphasizing the nouns (and verbs, if applicable), or help a younger child by gently holding their hand and pointing together.
You'd be surprised how hard this is for many children, however they will enjoy it as long as you make sure that they are at least 80% successful.
You need to work with your child at least 3 times a week for about a half hour. In the beginning it may be less, until your child gets the hang of it. You will begin to see better listening skills after about 2-3 weeks.
Hi! I’m a parent of 8 children, 3 of whom have learning disabilities. I have over 20 years experience working with kids and adults of all ages. My specialty is disabilities on the autistic spectrum, and language delays.