Following instructions is a complicated process. It deals with the correct functioning of a number of processes at the same time like having a developed hearing sensation, a good language receptive power, attention and concentration on facts, a proper working memory (ability to temporarily retain and manipulate information involved in language comprehension), and also the desired and necessary physical capacity to act on these instructions.
By around their first birthday, most tiny-tots would be able to follow simple instruction like a “no” or “yes”. They would rely on the sound of the words, the expression, the gesture, the accompanying hand movements, and also the context. All of these clues would have been picked up by your child while he/she kept on observing you with rapt attention during the preceding months.
To make the instruction following easy for your child, you can try these following methods:
- Establish eye contact: get the child’s visual attention before giving them an instruction.
- Give your child only one instruction at a time, so as to not confuse them.
- Keep language of instruction simple and direct.
- Break verbal instructions into parts. Do not use long, winding sentences.
- Repeat the instructions to ensure that your child has understood what they need to do
- Use of visual aids like pictures, gestures, body language and facial expression can assist the child’s comprehension and recall of the instruction.
Most kids take their own sweet time to follow instructions. Some may not hear intently at what is being said, some may be just too occupied with their own things and in their own world, and some may just simply be disinterested in doing what he/she has been told. So do not panic unnecessarily if your baby is not paying attention to your commands and acting accordingly.
But even after his/her first birthday, if he/she is either incapable of following instructions or is simply disinterested, seek the advice of a therapist or a child specialist to avoid any future issues. Inability to follow instructions at a young age can cause future problems like difficulty in understanding instructions during social interactions with peers and unfamiliar adults, difficulty in comprehending commands within academic tasks in higher levels of education, and difficulties in following instructions in the workplace, which impacts on task efficiency.
So please consult a professional if you suspect any developmental delay in your child.