The importance of attention and listening


Speech and Language Therapists often talk about how important attention and listening is, but what is so essential about these skills?

What is attention and listening?

Attention and listening is being able to listen and focus on specific tasks. Children’s attention and listening skills develop over a period of time and you will notice that as your child gets older they are able to attend for longer periods of time. 

Why are attention and listening skills important?

When thinking about the development of speech and language skills, attention and listening is often placed at the bottom of the communication pyramid. Attention and listening are foundation skills to the rest of your child’s development. Good attention and listening skills help your child develop their social skills, tune in and understand language, follow instructions, learn to communicate and listen to speech sounds to improve their intelligibility. 

What are some of the difficulties associated with attention and listening difficulties?

Children with attention and listening difficulties may display some of the following behaviours:

·     Appear to ignore you 

·     Cannot sit still 

·     Tend to flit from one activity to another

·     Are easily distracted 

·     Have difficulty following instructions 

·     Talk when they should be listening 

How can I help my child develop their attention and listening skills?

Here are some simple strategies you can use at home to support your child’s attention and listening skills:

·     Turn off background noise (e.g. TV, radio, music) where possible to reduce distractions and support your child to focus.

·     Reduce distractions in the environment. If your child is younger, try to only have one toy out at a time so they can focus. If your child is older and doing their homework for instance, try moving all the resources they don’t need off the table. 

·     Use your child’s name before giving an instruction to tune them in to your talking (e.g. “Jack, it’s tidy up time” rather than “It’s tidy up time, Jack”)

·     Use the ‘good sitting’, ‘good looking’ and ‘good listening’ prompt cards. We have attached a copy of these below. Use these to both praise your child when they are carrying out these behaviours and prompt them when they aren’t. 

·     Use visuals such as objects, pictures, gestures and facial expressions to accompany your spoken language to engage their attention for longer. 

·     Practice listening games such as listening to sounds on the way to nursery / school or listening bingo games. 

Remember… Attention and listening skills are the foundation to your child’s speech and language development. Therefore carrying out simple strategies to support your child’s attention can make a big difference. 

Justine & Emma 



Justine Woolley