The ability to focus attention on something or someone is important for all types of learning, particularly speech and language development. A child develops their attention and listening skills by listening to everyday sounds around them – the telephone, washing machine, animal noises etc. They will also need to focus their listening on spoken language including single words and sentences before they can learn to speak for themselves and communicate effectively with others. Babies and young children develop attention and listening skills through frequent opportunities to interact and play with others around them in quiet environments.
Keep background noise to a minimum when playing so children can focus their listening.
Are you giving the child your full attention when you are playing together?
Play for short periods often, with activities of interest. This will encourage the child to focus his/her attention for slightly longer each time.
Are you using the child’s name and looking at him/her before speaking? These clues will help them to focus their attention ready to listen.
NB. Without the ability to hear, a student will not be able to develop listening skills. If there are any concerns regarding a student’s hearing, you should discuss this with their parents first.
Attention and Listening
Children at this age are very easily distracted. A child’s attention is held only for a few moments by the dominant stimulus in the environment. They may:
Quieten or alert to the sound of speech.
Turn towards a familiar sound and then begin to locate a range of sounds with accuracy.
React to interactions with others by smiling, looking and moving.
Children of this age are able to concentrate for a short period on a task that is of interest to them. A child’s attention may be rigid and inflexible as in order to concentrate they have to cut out other stimuli in the environment. Because they can only concentrate on one task at a time this stage of attention development is called ‘single channelled’. Children will:
Listen to and enjoy rhythmic patterns in rhymes and stories.
Demonstrate enjoyment by trying to join in with actions or vocalisations.
Children of this age are beginning to be able to control their own focus of attention. They must still give their full attention (both looking and listening) in order to follow directions. Children will start to:
Listen to others one to one or in small groups, when conversation interests them.
Listens to stories with increasing attention and recall.
Children of this age are able to carry out one activity and at the same time attend to someone else giving them directions. This is called dual channelled attention. Most children will have well established dual – channelled attention by the time they begin full-time education.