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Helping Children Follow Directions

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You can help children follow directions by making it easy for them to listen and learn. Try some of these ideas…

Reduce Noise & Distractions

Noises like the television, radio, dishwasher, and people talking can make it hard to listen and follow directions

  • Turn off the noise
  • Take your child somewhere quieter before you give directions
  • Stand close to your child and bend down to them, so other noises are less distracting

Let your child know when it's time to listen

  • Call your child’s name
  • Say, “Time to listen.”
  • Give your child a signal (e.g. point to your ear).
  • Ask your child to repeat a direction after you say it.

Make directions easier to understand

  • Speak clearly and slowly
  • Make sure the important part of the direction is clear. (e.g. “Bring me your ducky blanket, please.”)
  • Start by giving one direction at a time.
  • Use actions and gestures. Actions make it easier to understand and follow directions. For example, pretend to wash your hands while saying, “Go wash your hands, please.”
  • Your child might not understand what you want them to do. Try using simpler words or shorter directions. If they still don’t understand, show them what you want them to do.

Give your child time

  • Wait at least five seconds for your child to understand and carry out a direction.
  • Wait for your child to finish one direction before you give another. When one direction becomes easy, try putting two together (e.g. Get your shoes and open the door).​​

Where to go get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:

  • Your doctor, public health nurse, or other health provider
  • Your local health centre
  • Visit the Talk Box - A parent guide to creating language rich environments

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