If you've ever tried giving instructions to a child aged 1 to 3, you'll know that it's almost next to impossible to get them to listen and follow. It's not that they are being defiant (okay, maybe a little) — it's just the way their brains are naturally wired. "For toddlers, everything around them can spark their curiosity. They have not yet developed the skills of blocking out the world around them in order to stay focused on what you might be saying to them," says Julie Kandall, the educational director at Columbus Pre-School in New York City, when she spoke to Romper.com.
Besides their underdeveloped communication skills, "children's senses work in overdrive as a way to make sense of the world around them and so it's easy for them to become distracted," adds Kandall.
But the good news is, you can train your kids' listening skills without them noticing. By making it a fun activity in the form of a game, you might just have some success in getting your little one to obey you. Here are some games you can start with:
1. Make a story chain
This can be played by two people or more. One person begins a story ("There was once a little girl whose name was..."), then the next person must contribute a line to get the story going. Because ideas have to come up quickly, one needs to listen closely to what was said previously. It will be hilarious what each player will come up with!
With their colorful appearance and goofy voice, it's easy for a puppet to catch your toddler's attention. As the puppeteer, get your fun side out and do your best to put your child at ease. Your little one is likely to take instructions from the puppet more willingly, because it will be like talking to a friend.
3. Guess the story's ending
Read a book to your child, and rather than finishing it to the end, pause occasionally to ask your child to guess what might happen next. This encourages them to pay attention to the story because they have participation in it. If your child is too young to make his own guesses, come up with choices and let him choose.
4. Scavenger hunt
Give your child a short list of items (up to three) that he must look for around the house. To make it a lesson on listening, say the items out loud and ask him to repeat, making sure he won't forget what's in the "list". You could also show your child the items before you hide them.
5. Where is the sound coming from?
Choose a distinct sound that your child is familiar with—a bell, for example. Blindfold your child and make him stand on one spot in the room. Sound the bell from different directions and ask him to point to the direction where he thinks the sound is coming from each time.
In your day-to-day interactions with your child, make yourself available to listen to him so that he, too will reciprocate. After you've played these games and had your fun, remember that nothing will teach him to listen better than seeing you, his parent, model it.