Tips & Tricks For Parents

Build Listening and Language Skills in Autumn

Last week we talked about how to build your child’s listening and language skills in the spring.

And if you’re in the southern hemisphere, enjoying the changing colors and autumn weather, here’s what you can do to help your child.

Take a Walk Outside

Taking a walk outside can be a great way to introduce your child to words and ideas that they might not have heard or used in the summer months.

  • Before you go out, talk with your child about what you’ll need to wear to suit the weather. As mentioned above, it’s important for your child to understand how our actions and reasons for these are linked.
    • Because it’s getting colder, you’ll need to layer up with warmer clothing: wearing a shirt and a jacket, or shoes and socks instead of sandals. Let your child know why you’re making these changes, instead of just taking them for granted: “We need to wear shoes outside now. It’s getting cold, and we need to keep our feet warm and dry.”
    • You can turn this into a listening activity by asking your child to get the different clothes that you need.
      • For example, you could say “We need to get some socks for your feet. Could you go and get your red socks with the blue spots out from your drawer?”
      • Then see if they are able to find those socks. If they have some difficulty, you can help them by breaking down the instructions into shorter bits: “Let’s go to your room and open the sock drawer,” and “Can you find the red socks with the blue spots?” Each time, wait for them to listen to your words and follow your instructions.
    • Be careful to not point or gesture too much. Although these can help your child understand your message, they can also start relying on visuals which can have an impact on building their listening skills.
  • When you go outside, talk about all the different changes that are happening. The more you say, the more you’re exposing your child to new language that’s directly relevant to what they are experiencing, which is helping to also extend their knowledge of the world around them.
    • As it’s autumn, you might reflect on how the air is getting cooler, the leaves are changing colours, or the leaves are falling on the ground. Point out the differences in the leaves that you see, and use descriptive language to highlight these for your child: “This leaf is a big, yellow leaf. And that leaf is a small, round brown leaf. Leaves change colour from green to yellow, orange, red, and brown. Then, they fall to the ground when the weather gets colder!”
    • Listen to the wind in the trees, or the rustle of the leaves. Tell your child about all the sounds, describing what they are: “Listen to how the leaves crunch as we step on them!”

Get Creative!

As you’re walking about, collect with your child some leaves, sticks, or other plants. When you’re back at home, you can use these in a craft-making activity to build your child’s listening and language skills.

  • Gather up different leaves.
  • Talk with your child about the differences in the leaves that you’ve collected: not just colours, but also the shapes, sizes, dryness, textures, and so on.
  • Talk with your child also about the similarities: point out that “these leaves are both green” or “these two leaves are the same size.”
  • Once you’ve talked about the leaves, you can bring them all together and make some arts and crafts:
    • Ask your child to gather some crafts materials through listening alone, like “Can you find the paintbrush in the cupboard?” or “Can you get the glue stick from the drawer?”
    • As you’re gluing leaves, painting colours and making a pretty autumn scene, talk with your child about different concepts relevant to actions your are doing and the materials you are using. For example, you could say to them how “the glue is sticky,” “the paintbrush is soft,” or “the lid on the paint is tight, and you need to give it a hard twist to get it off.”
    • Have your child glue leaves into certain places: focus on location. For example, ask your child to “glue one leaf on the top of the tree,” or another in the “middle.” If your child is unable to find the location that you’ve said, turn this in to a ‘teaching’ moment, and show them where it is. Repeat the word that describes that location in several natural phrases, e.g. “Up here is the top corner. It’s up the top of the paper, and right over in the corner. Let’s glue this red leaf up here in the top corner”
    • If you want to make these activities more difficult, just add in more information. For example, you might ask your child, “Put the big, green leaf on the top of the tree and the yellow leaf under the tree.”

Read Books

Reading books is a brilliant way to reinforce the language that your child is learning. You can use books to continue to build your child’s language skills, and to also do this through listening.

Take a trip to the library with your child, and pick out some seasonal books that cover the different words you’re teaching them. When you go back home and read them with your child, focus on the  new words and concepts that are related to the season Remember to make comments and ask questions throughout the book reading with your child, and encourage your child to also do the same. In doing this, book reading becomes more of an interactive activity where both you and your child are actively participating. It’s during natural interaction and active participation that your child will learn best.


This post was written with help from Ingrid Steyns, a rehabilitation specialist at MED-EL.


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