How toddlers learn about different sounds

by Jacqueline Harding. How you can help your toddler to discriminate between all the different sounds around them.

Girl smiling with hands near ears


We all know that being able to recognise the difference between sounds helps young children with their language development, and later on with their ability to sound out words and learn to read.

Here are some fun and playful tips for how parents/carers can build on their toddler’s listening skills - and help their little ones discriminate between all the different sounds they hear in the world around them.

How CBeebies can help

One of the best ways of helping your child to listen out for differences between sounds is to turn up the volume on CBeebies shows such as Boogie Beebies or Carrie and David’s Pop Shop - and get dancing and singing along to the music!

Or you could go online, click on the 'Song Time' section of the CBeebies website and get your child to close their eyes as you play the theme music from some of their favourite shows to them. This can really help toddlers to explore sound in a fun way.

Also, how about introducing your child to some sound games on the CBeebies website? You can find some great games, which are easy to play, on the Razzledazzle pages. A good one to start with is 'Animal Soundscape'. As well as learning new sounds (or matching sounds they already know to pictures), your child also has the chance to experiment creatively by recording their own little animal song.

How to make a magic moment

An 'A-ha!' magical moment often occurs as you see the smile spread across a young child’s face. They get it - the penny has dropped, and they understand the difference between the two sounds.

Play an exciting sound game together. You could pretend to be sound detectives and go on a 'sound hunt' around your garden or local park – can you a dog barking, leaves rustling or ducks quacking?

You could also have fun listening to pre-recorded sounds from around the home (e.g. the washing machine churning away, the doorbell ringing, the vacuum cleaner whirring, a radio playing, etc.). You might be able to record everyday sounds on your phone! Play each sound to your child and ask your child to 'Name that sound'. Give them a high-five for each sound they get right.

Older children love these kind of games too.

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Top tips

  • Try going on a ‘sound walk’ with your toddler - listen and tell each
  • other about the different sounds you can hear.Have fun together playing a sound game – e.g. you could make the sounds
  • of different farm animals and ask your toddler to guess the animal.Hide behind a sheet
  • and tap on a drum, rattle a toy, or ring a bell (use anything you might have in
  • the home). Can your child guess what object is making the sound?Sing
  • songs with your child. Try singing in a high-pitched voice and then singing in
  • a low-pitched voice – all good for helping your child listen to differences in
  • sound.

Expert opinion

Lively games that help little ones to discriminate between sounds in the environment, in music, etc can make all the difference in the future… and they are great fun.

Jacqueline Harding, Child Development Expert

Parent's tale

Simply popping on a CD or turning on the radio can be a great way to get your kids interested in music. Try to diversify the music that your child hears so he can develop his own musical tastes and interests.

Sarah, from Lower Langford

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