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17 Simple Listening Activities for Kids

Need some fun listening activities for kids, to use at home or in class?

Listening is one of the most important skills you can teach your child. Although it is often overlooked, it is actually easy to develop with simple games and activities.

Here is a brief explanation of the importance of this skill, followed by 17 simple listening activities and games.

Why Listening Skills Are Important

Listening skills will affect your child’s:

  • ability to develop speech and language skills
  • ability to read (auditory perception is vital for reading)
  • ability to follow verbal instructions at school
  • ability to socialize and communicate effectively
  • ability to cope in general at home and at school

In modern times, children may be exposed to large periods of screen time as well as many types of stimuli that can be overwhelming. They also tend to have less free time to play.

This affects their concentration span and their overall performance, especially their ability to read, which involves hearing, distinguishing and blending sounds.

The good news is that by paying attention to this skill at home for just 5 to 10 minutes a day, you can make a massive difference to your child’s overall listening ability and help them cope better at school.

Listening is an important part of your child’s overall cognitive development.

The best time to start doing these activities is as early as possible (it starts with your baby listening to sounds and music) and right through the preschool and primary/elementary years.

17 Listening Activities and Games for Kids

Here are some games, tips and activities to try at home. You don’t need anything except a few minutes of your time.

You can find these and many more listening activities in the Learning Through Play Activity Pack, linked at the end of this post.

Pinterest image - 8 games to improve your child's listening skills.

I have used these kinds of activities and played all these games in the classroom and the children thoroughly enjoyed them.

1. Broken Telephone

Mother and child playing broken telephone

The telephone game can be played around the dinner table or anytime when at least 3 members of your family are present.

Start with single words if your child is very young and slowly move up to phrases, then entire sentences as your child becomes more competent at listening.

Make up a word or sentence and whisper it into your child’s ear, who must whisper it to the next family member, who continues passing the message around the table. The last person to hear the message says it out loud.

This usually ends in laughter as the phrases often change and the message is broken. In time, your child will be able to listen to detail better and convey accurate messages.

Vary the sentences by using alliterations (e.g. my tiny teddy is talking) and rhyming sentences (e.g. do you have a blue shoe?).

Also, change the order of who-whispers-to-who and allow your child to make up messages as well.

2. Simon Says

The classic Simon Says game is excellent for making your child pay attention and listen to instructions.

Call out instructions by saying, for example, “Simon Says put your hands on your shoulders.” When you give an example that doesn’t begin with “Simon Says,” such as “Jump three times,” your child must not do it.

This means that for each instruction, your child must listen for two details:

  • whether or not they must follow the order
  • what they need to do

A variation of this game is Do This, Do That.

Standing in front of your child, perform certain actions by saying either “do this” or “do that.” For example, you could tap your head, clap your hands or do a jump.

When you say “do this” your child must do the action, but when you say “do that” they must stand still.

Children love this game and often giggle their way through it. It takes a lot of concentration to not move and first listen to whether they should perform the action or not.

Here are some fun Simon Says ideas.

3. Musical Statues

Mother and daughters playing musical statues

The Musical Statues game is another favourite that kids love.

All you need is some music and a space to dance. Play the music and stop it every now and again. You and your child must both freeze as soon as the music stops.

You will see the difference over time as your child refines their listening skills. Initially, it may take a while for your child to realize the music has paused and to stop dancing.

4. I Went to the Zoo and I Saw a…

This game is more advanced than the previous ones and involves listening as well as memorizing.

Choosing any animal names, start the game by saying “I went to the zoo and I saw a monkey.”

Your child then responds with “I went to the zoo and I saw a monkey and a lion.”

You respond with “I went to the zoo and I saw a monkey, a lion and a tortoise.”

For each turn, repeat the animals that have already been listed, in sequence, then add a new one. You may not repeat an animal.

At first, this may be tricky, but with time you will be amazed at how many animals your child can remember.

This game is actually easier with more people because it is easier to associate words with different people than 10 words from the same person. So be sure to get the siblings, parents and grandparents involved.

After practising this a few times, my 6-year-olds were often able to remember all the words from an entire class of 20 to 25 children.

This game can be varied with any list e.g. I went to the shop and I bought a…” or “In my fruit salad there is a…”

5. Which One is the Odd One Out?

Which one is the odd one out is a game that develops listening for a particular piece of information.

Say a string of words to your child that are part of a particular theme or category. Insert one word into the set that does not belong and ask your child to identify the word that doesn’t belong.

Example:

apple, banana, leopard, pear and apricot.

The word leopard is an animal but the rest of the words are types of fruits.

Start off with an easy example like this and later make the categories less obvious or make the odd word of a slightly different category.

For example, say a list of vegetables and insert one fruit, or say a list of negative emotions and add in a positive emotion.

6. What Sound is That?

This is a game of listening to everyday sounds and recognizing what they are.

Child listening carefully, holding hand to ear.

Blindfold your child or ask them to turn around. Walk around the room and make noises with various everyday items. Ask your child what they are.

This can be done in any room – a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, living room or even outdoors. Make sounds such as:

  • open the refrigerator door
  • switch on the blender
  • lift and close the swing dustbin
  • take an ice-cube out of the tray
  • switch on the tap
  • peel a banana
  • boil the kettle

7. Go on a Listening Walk

Mom and daughter on a listening walk

This game is great not only for developing listening skills but also for teaching mindfulness and avoiding spending all day listening to the jumble of thoughts in one’s head. Adults should do it too.

Take your child for a walk in the garden, down the road or to the park. There are usually enough sounds in your garden!

Tell each other all the sounds you hear – leaves rustling, your dog barking, a car on the motorway, a bird chirping, a child yelling, a siren, etc.

8. How Many Things Did You Hear

This is a variation on the previous game and involves listening as well as memorizing.

Ask your child to close their eyes and put a timer on your phone for 30 seconds. Ask him to listen carefully and try to remember all the things he heard – in order if possible.

List all the sounds that were heard and count how many different sounds there were. With time, increase from 30 seconds to a minute of focused listening.

9. Listen to Stories

Listen to audiobook CDs or stories on Youtube, without looking at the screen. Ask your child about the story after he has heard it. 

This also works with bedtime stories. Ask your child to close his eyes and listen to you reading the story without showing the pictures. Ask him to think about how he will draw the story for you in the morning.

Here is a set of short, funny stories for kids.

10. Give Multiple Instructions

Give your child instructions around the house or while cooking together. Make them clear. Start with one instruction. Please fetch the book next to my bed.

Ask your child to repeat the instruction back to you, then follow it.

Increase it to two instructions. Please fetch the book next to my bed. Open it and take out the recipe cut-out from the front cover.

Again, ask your child to repeat both and then carry them out.

Increase this over time, until you can give 5 instructions at once. Multiple instructions are frequently given in the classroom, making this a valuable exercise.

Here are some fun 2-step directions for preschoolers.

11. Ask Questions During Story Time

While reading to your child, ask different types of questions to develop their higher-order thinking skills.

Examples are questions that require prediction, problem solving, understanding cause and effect, discussing character traits, personal opinions, etc.

12. Draw a Picture With Instructions

Adapt the following exercise to your child’s level.

Give your child a piece of paper and coloured crayons/pencils. Ask him to follow your instructions carefully.

This is an enlightening exercise that often clearly shows if listening skills are in place or require some sharpening.

Preschoolers should get very simple instructions and only one at a time initially. Incorporate questions with the words left and right.

Feel free to use this example or make up your own.

Father doing listening activity with child
  • Turn your page to landscape.
  • Write your name in the top left-hand corner.
  • Draw a sun in the top right-hand corner and draw three clouds at the top of your page, in between the date and sun (multiple instructions in one).
  • Draw a tree in the bottom left-hand corner of the page with 4 apples on it.
  • In the middle of the page, draw an airplane with 5 windows. Draw a big red stripe on the airplane.
  • Draw 3 flying birds on the right-hand side of the airplane.
  • Draw some grass on the ground and 3 flowers.

Here are a few more ‘following directions’ drawing activity ideas, from easy to challenging.

13. Practise Auditory Analysis and Synthesis

Practise breaking up words by listening to their sounds and substituting letters. This is an excellent activity to help with phonics and reading.

The following activities increase in difficulty:

Repeat each word after me: say mat, say cat, say rat, etc. (rhyming sets)

Repeat two words together, then three, etc: say mat, fat, cat

Take away one word in compound words: Say pancake, now say it again without pan

Change the initial sound: Say sad, now change the s to an m mad

Change the end sound: Say fan, now change the n to a b fab

Change the middle sound: Say nut, now change the u to an e net

There are many other ways to break up sounds but these are a few ideas to start with.

14. Sing Action Rhymes

When children are using their bodies to move, they are concentrating better, learning more and developing better listening skills.

A great listening activity for preschoolers is to tell them an action rhyme where they follow the instructions such as the one below. 

Child singing an action rhyme

Hands on Shoulders

Hands on shoulders,

hands on knees.

Hands behind you,

if you please;

Touch your shoulders,

now your nose,

Now your hair and now your toes;

Hands up high in the air,

Down at your sides, and touch your hair;

Hands up high as before,

Now clap your hands, one-two-three-four!

Here are some more fun action songs with lyrics.

15. Make Up an Impromptu Story

At bedtime, make up a nonsense story together by adding on one line each and seeing where the story goes.

Mom: Once upon a time there was a little girl.

Child: She was fighting with her brother.

Mom: Suddenly they heard a big noise and went to the window…

16. Model Good Listening

It goes without saying…If you want your children to be good listeners, you need to model that behaviour.

Listen to them when they talk to you. Validate what they are saying. Listen to your family members.

17. Praise Good Listening

And finally…

Praise your child when they listen well by using specific language.

Try not to default to ‘what a good boy’. Rather make statements such as:

Great job listening carefully to all the instructions.

I can see from your picture that you were concentrating on my instructions.

Well done for making the effort to concentrate today. 


Would you like a year of done-for-you, ten-minute activities to teach your 3-5-year-old through play? Get your copy of the Learning Through Play Activity Pack for only $27.

Activity Pack for preschoolers

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Gurprit

Thursday 5th of August 2021

Wonderful activities, which will help us to provide better platform to our children

Tanja Mcilroy

Thursday 5th of August 2021

I'm happy you like these, Gurprit!

sajitha

Monday 6th of July 2020

Thank you for sharing the activities are wonderful God bless

Jumana

Thursday 9th of July 2020

Thank you for sharing these activities. God bless

Tanja Mcilroy

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

You're welcome Sajitha!

Joanne Mambro

Monday 15th of June 2020

Thank you for the great help

Manaswini

Saturday 13th of June 2020

Amazing activities....thank you so much!

Dr. Fehmeena Bakht

Thursday 4th of June 2020

very fruitful and excellent activities

Tanja Mcilroy

Friday 5th of June 2020

Thanks for your feedback!

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