This week’s activity primes your child’s ears to pick up subtle changes in sound, which helps your learner develop the auditory discrimination skills required to discern slight differences in language sounds (such as between the “a” sounds in “cat” and “call”). All you need is a portable ticking clock, metronome, or a device (like your phone) that can play soft, repetitive music.
1. Invite your child to play a hide-and-seek game with the item, with sound providing the clues!
2. Whichever item you choose, sit with your child and have them listen to the sound that it makes.
3. Say, “Cover your eyes! You can still listen for the sound with your eyes closed. I’m going to hide the object. Listen very carefully, and try to figure out what direction the sound is coming from.”
4. After hiding the object, say, “Open your eyes! Where is the sound coming from? How do you know?” Pay attention to how your learner attempts to locate the sound:
- Do they wait quietly and block out other distractions as they listen for the sound?
- Do they seem to be following what they hear or just searching haphazardly for the object?
- Do they understand that the volume of the noise indicates how close it is?
5. Give your child a chance to hide the object, too. Narrate your thinking as you listen. For example, “I hear the sound mostly in this ear, so I think it’s coming from this direction,” or “It gets louder when I go to this side of the room, so I know it’s over here.” This will provide a model for your learner to follow later on.
Believe it or not, this tip is actually derived from a study about teaching young children to read. Being able to discern subtle changes in sound is key to phonological awareness, which refers to the knowledge of the “sound units” within spoken language (including syllables, rhyming sets, and phonemes). This attention to sound in language is an essential aspect of early literacy because it’s one of the skills that allows children to later translate written symbols into familiar spoken words.
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