Listening skills are an important lesson for little ones to learn.

Activities for Teaching Kids to Listen With Understanding & Empathy

by Kathryn Hatter

Listening takes practice, especially when it requires empathy. Adults don’t always do this perfectly, either -- it can be that challenging. Empathetic listening has two common names: active listening and reflective listening. Both terms simply mean that you take in the information and work hard to understand and empathize with the speaker. Teach your preschooler these important listening skills with fun activities and you'll have a little listening pro in no time.

1. Reflective/Active Listening Overview

When people apply active listening skills, they concentrate on a message and they use empathy to try to understand feelings behind the message, states Eleanor Reynolds, with the Earlychildhood News website. This reflective or active listening shows real interest. The speaker feels valued and the listener shows that she thinks the message is important enough to listen carefully.

2. Finish a Story

Sit with your little ones and either tell or read a fun or interesting story. Make the story engaging and try to capture their attention and interest. Keep reading or telling until you get to the climax and then stop. You’ll probably hear shouts of dismay as your tots try to get you to finish the story. Instead, encourage your kids to finish it for you. Ask them to pick up where you left off and create an ending for the story. Listen intently to their version of the ending. When they’re done weaving a conclusion, you can then finish reading or telling your story, too. Talk about the different endings to see which one everyone prefers.

3. Illustrate a Story

Instead of inviting your little ones to finish the story, try a different activity. Finish the story yourself, but then ask your little ones to illustrate it for you. This can be an ideal activity for pre-readers and writers. After your kiddos finish their illustrations, ask them to retell the story in their own words. You could write their words on a separate sheet of paper as they dictate them, too.

4. Question of the Day

A question-of-the-day game can be perfect for sitting around the table at mealtime or any other time the whole family is sitting together. Choose a question for everyone to answer, such as “What was the best thing that happened today?” or “What was something funny that happened today?” Give everyone a turn to answer and give details to answer the question. Encourage good listening so everyone remembers how family members answered. After everyone answers, go back around and have each person give details about each family member’s answer.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

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