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Primary School

Listening and Attention Skills

A few Nursery parents have spoken with us about ways to improve their child's listening and attention skills, so we wanted to share this information with everyone in case it is of use to others too. 

Why are Attention and Listening Skills Important?

It is important to remember that all children will develop attention skills at different speeds. Good attention and listening skills help with:

  • Social skills
  • Understanding language
  • Following instructions
  • Learning to communicate
  • Speech sounds
  • All areas of learning (yes, really!)


What are Attention and Listening Skills?

When children ‘listen’ they are actually drawing on three separate processes:

1. Hearing
We need to remember that hearing doesn’t mean listening, it’s just a physical act of receiving sound stimulation and sending it to the brain for reception.

2. Listening
Is tuning into a sound, recognising its importance and interpreting the information in the brain.

3. Attention
Children may be able to hear and listen to sounds and voices, but they also need to be able to do this for a sustained period of time.



When your child starts school, Phonics becomes a big part of everyday life, transforming them from a non-reader to a child who is capable of reading fluently and spelling (mostly!) accurately by the end of Year 2 and it all begins in Nursery.

During your child’s time in Nursery we are preparing them to become successful readers and writers and great listening skills are fundamental in this, which is why our Phonic activities focus on training the children in the awareness of sounds.

Phase 1 is the beginning of your child’s Phonic journey and is the foundation from which all other Phonic skills can build upon. 

In Phase 1 phonics, children are taught about:

  • Environmental sounds – the sounds that can be heard around them e.g. washing machine, car/truck
  • Instrumental sounds - playing instruments and listening to others play them
  • Body percussion (e.g. clapping and stamping)
  • Rhythm and rhyme - rhyming books are perfect for this
  • Voice sounds - making your voice loud, quiet, Mummy's voice compared to Daddy's 
  • Oral blending and segmenting (e.g. hearing that d-o-g makes ‘dog’)

This phase is intended to develop children’s listening, vocabulary and speaking skills and typical activities for teaching Phase 1 phonics include 'listening' walks, playing and identifying instruments, action songs, learning rhymes and playing games like I Spy.


Short, Sharp Bursts

Children’s listening skills will develop over time, and will always be better when they are interested and engaged with what they’re supposed to be listening to. At five to six years old, for example, they’re beginning to be able to filter out distractions, but can still only listen with focus for five to 10 minutes. Some research suggests that they can pay full attention for one minute per year of their life.


Activities to develop listening skills

There are also specific activities you can do with your child to help them develop their listening skills. These include:

  • Games like Simon Says will help your child to listen and follow instructions.
  • Listening walks, where you take time to stop and pay attention to the sounds you can hear.
  • Clapping a rhythm for your child to repeat.
  • Describing a picture to your child, which they have to draw based on your description.
  • Playing What’s That Sound?, using household objects to make a noise (e.g. shaking a peppermill, deflating a balloon, running a tap) and getting your child to guess what it is.


As always, if you have any questions please do speak to any member of the Nursery team or email us if you would rather. 

Thank you for your continued support,

The Nursery Team :)


Further Reading