Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Toddler Tip Tuesday: Use Music to Teach Listening Skills

If you're like me, you've wondered a few times if your kid has hearing problems. Surely your sweet child wouldn't be ignoring you. Right?

There's a period in a child's language learning where you're just not sure how much they understand, especially when it comes to following directions. Maybe they don't understand your instructions. Maybe they don't get what following directions is all about. Or, maybe they get it, but simply don't want to do it.

When Gummy was younger, I was surprised that he didn't come wired to do what I asked. After all, I was the parent. I was bigger. I knew how things were done. He should just get that. Right? Wow, I had a lot of learning to do.

Because I didn't want my happy boy to spend his days in punishment, I needed to figure out what he understood and how to incentivize good behavior. It turned out that music could fill both of these needs.

When it comes to recorded music, a lot of children's artists record songs with movement instructions in the lyrics (Laurie Berkner's "Shake Your Body Down" and Yo Gabba Gabba's "Hold Still" are examples). When we first started hearing these songs, Gummy didn't know he was supposed to listen and follow directions. I started repeating the words of the movements in the song and showing him what they meant (if he didn't already know). It wasn't long before he started listening for the instructions himself. How he responded to the music became a good indicator of what words he understood. Now he loves this kind of music and is good at following the dance instructions by himself. His latest favorite is "Everybody Stand Up!" by John Henry England.

Once kids get the idea of following directions, you can start putting them into your own songs. This is the motivation part. For some reason toddlers think it's more fun to follow directions that are given in music. For a while, I could get Gummy to do lots of things just by putting the instructions into the song "If You're Happy and You Know It." No longer were we confined to clapping hands and stomping feet. Try some of these.

If you're happy and you know it...
     put on your socks/pants/shoes
     wash your hands
     take a bite
     get in the car
     pick up your toys
     hug your mommy
     brush your teeth
     get in the bath
     sit on the floor
     pick out a book
     say goodbye

Of course, it's best if you teach them the song with fun movements first. They need to enjoy the music or it won't provide an incentive.

Also, toddler bossiness is a lot funnier in song form. Gummy now uses this method to try to get me to do things for him. Today's version was, "If you're happy and you know it, make some cookies." 

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