The ability to pay attention, sit quietly and look at the person talking is undeniably useful at school and in later life. By the time children reach four to five years, they should be able to pay attention to a speaker, while also engaged in another activity (for example painting, while being told about a topic) Younger children generally need to look at the speaker and focus solely on them, in order to take in information.
To help your child with listening, you can play simple games like Simon Says and Musical Statues. You could also try a listening walk, where you list some of the sounds they might hear (a car engine, birdsong, footsteps etc) and your child ticks each sound off when they hear it. Audio books and CDs such as Animal Soundtracks are an excellent, guilt-free diversion when you need a break and don’t want to submit to the television.