Many parents are eager for their child to say their first words, but how much do we pay attention to an infant’s listening skills?
Listening is a critical skill that requires a child to hear a message, understand it, and act accordingly. Young children who have listening difficulties may demonstrate the following behaviors:
- Difficulty with hearing
- Unclear speech or delayed speech
- Difficulty following rules or expected routines
- Behavior challenges
- Difficulty engaging with other people and their environment
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This shows the importance of supporting, expanding and monitoring these listening skills at an early age.
Before reaching age 1, infants have already begun developing critical listening skills to process their environment such as:
- Infants alert to sudden noises and sounds by age 4 months. They may quiet and more their eyes to the direction of the noise.
- By 6 months of age, infants attend to familiar voices by quieting and turning their heads in that direction. Infants are delighted by music, noisy toys and familiar voices. Infants also “pick up” on tone by respond, positively or negatively, with babbling and facial expressions.
- Infants imitate sounds, actions and approximate words around this age, too. Imitating speech sounds and voice inflections of their parents and siblings help support their learning through language.
- Around 8 months, infants follow simple requests/directions such as “want up” or “come here”. They also begin to point at named objects, people and pets, too. This skill continues to mature and leads to a child being able to follow multi-step instructions to complete a task such as a classroom assignment or learning to do laundry.
- Tying into imitation, infants engage in reciprocal vocal and play exchanges by age 1. Engaging an infant in blowing raspberries, taking turns babbling strings of sounds, and games like tickling, “Patty Cake” and “Peek-a-Boo”. Infants listen attentively by looking and turning their head/body in their parent’s direction. Infants demonstrate all the above skills with a parent or sibling, that helps develop early conversational and play skills that later support learning and language development.
Listening skills are essential for a young child’s early language development. Parents who support their infant’s attention, engagement and interaction broaden connections to future opportunities in the world.
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