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How can adults model active listening for young children?

Amber Tankersley, PhD

December 1, 2023

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Question

How can adults model active listening for young children?

Answer

Get on the child's level - sit or kneel so you are face-to-face versus standing over them. Maintain comfortable eye contact to show you are focused on them. Give relevant nonverbal gestures like nodding to encourage them to continue.

Respond to demonstrate you are listening - praise, ask a question, or make a comment to spur them to elaborate. Relevant responses reinforce that you are engaged. Ask open-ended questions for them to fill in details, not a rapid-fire interrogation.

Paraphrase by repeating part of what they said. This helps clarify meaning, correct misconceptions, and gain understanding. Simply repeating their words does not demonstrate active listening.

Practice patience - resist finishing their sentences or rushing them along. Wait for them to find the right words and express themselves fully. Though time is limited, patience models good communication and builds confidence.

By getting on their level, giving nonverbal and verbal responses, paraphrasing, asking questions, and waiting patiently, we demonstrate attentive listening skills for children to build on themselves.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course Promoting Listening Skills in Young Childrenpresented by Amber Tankersley, PhD.


amber tankersley

Amber Tankersley, PhD

Amber Tankersley is a professor in child development within the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary/early childhood education, a master's degree in elementary education, and a PhD in curriculum and instruction. She has worked in the field of early childhood for over 25 years as a preschool teacher, university child care center director, university instructor/professor and director of a NAEYC accredited preschool lab. She often presents at workshops/conferences on the topic of early childhood curriculum and the importance of play. She teaches courses such as early childhood curriculum, interacting with children, and parent/professional relationships. 


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