2-3y Attention and Listening Skills

What is it?

Good listening skills are important for being able to join in with activities and interacting with others.

The development of listening and attention skills is essential to promote a child’s understanding and use of language.

What to expect?

By 3 years children will usually:

  • Be interested in playing with sounds , songs and rhymes
  • Be beginning to listen with interest but easily distracted
  • Concentrate on activities for longer, for example playing with a particular toy
  • If you have their full attention be able to stop what they’re doing and do something else

Information & advice

You can help by:

  • Always addressing your child by name before you speak.
  • Approaching your child before you speak.
  • Getting down to your child’s level whenever possible
  • Encouraging (but not trying to force) eye contact.
  • Reduce background noise e.g. turning the off the TV/radio to help your child focus their attention on you.


  • Play with noisy toys. Build anticipation before starting the toy to encourage your child to listen and wait for longer periods of time. They are then rewarded with the element of surprise!
  • Share books together- Talk about the different sounds they hear such as a train’s ‘choo choo’ while looking the pictures. Also have some toys and silly actions ready that go with parts of your story, when they hear a word they can find the object/ do the silly action that goes with the word.
  • Play listening games- hiding your mobile phone, ring it and get them to find it in the room, Blow up a balloon or before you blow the bubbles and say “ready steady…..(wait a second)….go” then let the balloon go / blow bubbles . Stop and start with musical instruments .
  • Use noisy objects e.g. keys, up turned box as a drum etc. Guess what objects makes a particular sound.