Though the ability to hear develops in the womb, listening is learned as a child grows and discovers his world. Here are everyday ways you can build your toddler’s listening skills.

“Hearing and listening are not the same thing.” Most children are born being able to hear, but being able to really listen—to instructions and warnings, to parents, teachers and friends—is a skill that your child needs to learn. Children get distracted easily.

8 TIPS TO HELP SHARPEN YOUR TODDLER’S LISTENING SKILLS

“Talk to your child often. The simplest way to build a strong listening foundation is through plain old face-to-face communication. Even before toddlers can speak well, they’re listening to you. Actually they began listening when they were in the womb. Describe what’s happening throughout the day. At the end of the day, recap what you did together. Your toddler is eager to learn information about the world and pays close attention to your words, her first speech instructor.

Speak in a lively tone. It’s more interesting for your child to pay attention and follow than a flat monotone or mumble.

Keep it clear and simple. Give clear and simple instructions. Use simple sentences: “Bring me your shoes.” It’s too confusing for a toddler to follow when you use too many words or string together too many directions (“After you put your toys away, I want you to bring me your shoes and your blue socks” – information overload). In time you can add more details to your messages.

Giving activity directions for routine activities is a good way to practice listening skills: “Hand me your green cup.” “Let’s put soap on our hands to wash them.”

Frame comments in a positive way when you can. It’s more effective to tell your child what he can do, rather than what he can’t. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t run in the street!” try, “Hold my hand while we go across the street.”

Read to your child. You may already know that reading builds a child’s vocabulary. But interacting together over a book also sharpens listening skills. Ask questions: “Where’s the red book? What do you think will happen next?” One reason kids like to hear the same story over and over is that it helps them to learn and predict what comes next. Learning through storytelling is a happy process and experience for children.

Play a listening game. Ask your child to put his hands over his eyes. Ask, “What can you hear? Can you hear the lawn mower outside? Can you hear the cats? What else can you hear?” See how many sounds your child can name. This builds hearing, the mind and his vocabulary all at the same time.

Watch what’s interesting to your child and use that as a learning tool. If your child likes Red Teddy Bears, use them in teaching how to count. Your child will learn faster.