3-4y 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 4 years children will usually:

  • Concentrate for short periods of time (up to 10 mins) on a range of activities with adult support e.g looking at a book together
  • Actively participate in adult-directed group activities
  • Remain at an interesting activity for around 5 minutes
  • Listen to stories for an increasing amount of time

Information & advice

You can help by:

  • Always calling 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.


  • Use puppets and other props and action songs to encourage listening and responding when singing a familiar song.
  • If possible use pictures, objects, acting, gestures and facial expressions. This will keep your child’s interest.
  • Choose favourite books, attempt to alter the volume of your voice, use repetition and create a rhyme when telling the story. Add pauses for your child to listen and wait at for exciting moments in the story.
  • Listening games – making animal/transport noises and encourage your child to match the noise to the animal/vehicle.
  • Copying Actions- Start with a simple action such as clapping or waving your arms. Once your child starts copying, change to a different action such as stamping your feet. When your child gets good at looking and copying, make it harder e.g. stamping feet while waving.  You could also use a puppet or teddy to give the actions.