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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 children. 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 children’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.

Listening is an important part of overall cognitive development.

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

There are many activities in the Free Activity Pack below that will build listening skills, so don’t forget to sign up for that too!

17 Listening Activities and Games for Kids

Here are some games, tips and activities to try at home (they’re great for school too). You don’t need anything except a few minutes of your time.

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

Many of them can also be played with children for years after preschool as they will still build vital listening and memory skills.

1. Broken Telephone

Mother and child playing broken telephone

The Telephone Game can be played around the dinner table or in class.

Start with single words if your children are very young and slowly move up to phrases, then entire sentences as they become 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 children to make up messages as well.

2. Simon Says

The classic Simon Says game is excellent for making kids 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 children must not do it.

This means that for each instruction, they 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 children, 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 kids 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. Everyone must freeze when the music stops.

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.”

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

You – or the next child in the group – responds 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 kids 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 category game that develops listening for a particular piece of information.

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


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 (here’s a list of categories).

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 a child or ask them to turn around. Walk around the room and make noises with various everyday items. Ask your children 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 children for a walk in the garden, playground, 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 of the previous game and involves listening as well as memorizing.

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

List all the sounds 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 kids questions about the story.

This also works with bedtime stories. Ask them to close their eyes and listen to you reading the story without showing the pictures. They can think about how they will draw the story for you in the morning.

10. Give Multiple Instructions

Give kids multiple instructions in the class, around the house or while cooking together. Make them clear. Start with one instruction. Please fetch the book next to my bed.

Ask them 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.

Increase this over time, until you can give 4 or 5 instructions at once. Multiple instructions are frequently given in the classroom, making this a valuable exercise to try at home.

Here are some fun 2-step directions for preschoolers.

11. Ask Questions During Story Time

While reading to children, 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 children’s level.

Provide a piece of paper and coloured crayons/pencils. Ask kids 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, simplify it for a preschooler 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

These exercises can increase in difficulty for older children:

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 or classroom circle time, make up a nonsense story together by taking turns adding one line and seeing where the story goes.

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

Child: She was fighting with her brother.

Adult: 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.

17. Praise Good Listening

And finally…

Praise your children 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. 

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

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Monday 23rd of January 2023

How do you sign up?

Tanja Mcilroy

Monday 23rd of January 2023

Hi Katherine, sign up on this page by following the prompts to download the free activity packs:


Sunday 25th of September 2022

based on the activties, the activities are good for children because when we listen , we use our ears to recieve individual sounds ( letter, stress , rythm and pause). we use our brain to convert these into messages that mean something to us.

Naw Elizabeth

Wednesday 31st of August 2022

I want to learn more about how to be a good listener and need more activity.

Tanja Mcilroy

Wednesday 31st of August 2022

Hi Elizabeth, there are many activities and articles on the website to help with listening skills. Find them on this page:


Thursday 7th of April 2022

great. It's recommended blog


Wednesday 9th of March 2022


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