If your baby has just received a cochlear implant, now’s the time to help him or her dive right in to the world of sound. One of the best ways to build listening skills is by building a solid foundation of sound awareness and understanding, so I’ve put together six different listening games and activities that you can play with your baby to build these skills.
1. Making instruments at home
Playing music doesn’t mean that you need to buy any specialized instruments. No, you can make your own instruments! By making your own instruments you can help your baby hear and make a wide variety of sounds. And, you can show your child that some things make sounds—and others don’t.
For example, you could make a tambourine-type instrument by taping dried peas or pasta inside of two paper plates. Shaking it back and forth could be both fun for your child, and will show him or her that the peas and pasta make sound when they are moved around. Then you could make another one, but this time use cotton balls instead, you’ll help show your child that even though there’s something inside the plates they won’t make a sound.
Here are some other instruments you could make:
- Shaker: a bottle filled with rice
- Drum: a pan or empty tin, struck with a wooden spoon
- Castanets: two plastic egg cups
- Trumpet: a paper towel’s cardboard tube
2. Making Sounds with Toys
You and your baby can also explore sounds by playing with toys. Get some toys that make noises on their own, like a Tickle Me Elmo, or if you’ve got non-sound-making toys then just use your voice by saying words like
- “Brmm-brmm” for cars
- “Choo-choo” for trains
- “Whoosh” for planes
- “Beep-beep” for a bus
- “Tick-tock” for a clock
- “Ring-ring” for a phone
- “Whee!” for when going down a slide
3. Singing and Rhyming
Keep up the musical theme by singing along with, or listening, to music. You don’t need to make it complex: start simple by clapping your hands, stamping your feet, tapping gently on your baby’s body, moving your body or humming along to the music.
Help your baby build an awareness of sound by starting when the music starts, and stopping when the music stops.
Or, play with action rhymes like “Ring around the rosies” where you can move around with your child and then stop when the rhyme stops. And using a sing-song voice can help build your child’s vocabulary at the same time. You can even carry on using a sing-song voice throughout your day because it makes routines more interesting for your baby to be involved in and listen to, and can help him or her understand what is going to happen.
Here are some rhymes that I recommend starting with:
- Eensy Weensy Spider
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- This Little Piggy
- Two Little Dicky Birds Sitting on a Wall
4. Games With Your Voice
Singing or rhyming aren’t the only times you can use your voice. During your day you can talk with your baby to catch his or her attention, build anticipation, and let him or her know when sounds have gone quiet.
- Help your baby recognize sounds by saying “Ready!” or “Listen!” before making a sound. You could emphasize this further by either pointing to the object or cupping your hand behind your ear in the listening position.
- Build anticipation by saying phrases like “1…2…3!” or “Ready…steady…go!” before beginning an activity or moving somewhere.
- When sounds have finished, like when you’re listening to a song, look at your baby and say “It’s stopped!” This way you can help your baby to recognize silence as well as sounds.
5. Read Aloud with Books
Reading books aloud with your baby is helpful because it helps your baby connect sounds to the words or pictures on a page.
For very young babies, start with colorful book boards or fabric books. They don’t even need to have words, just talk with your baby about what you see on the page.
Flip through the pages to show your baby that there’s an order to the story and each new page brings the next part of the story. Then as he or she gets older, let your baby explore the book on their own.
You might like to use a sing song voice when you are reading with your baby, to help make it more enjoyable for them and keep their listening attention.
6. Discover Environmental Sounds
There are lots of ready-made sounds to be found around your house, so go looking for them! A listening walk can be done inside of your house, and you don’t need any special toys or tools. Just use the toys or household appliances that you’ve already got.
- Walk around your house and look for appliances that make sounds, like the microwave, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, or a flushing toilet.
- Then, walk around the house with your child. When you’re near an object that you’ve picked, stop and say “listen!” to prepare your child for the sound.
- Now turn the object on so that it makes a noise.
- Show your child that you are listening by pointing to your ear, and then smile and nod. You can also say “I hear that!” and use your voice to copy the sound.
- Once you’ve had some fun with this sound, then go on to the next one.
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