Auditory perception is an important part of a child’s healthy intellectual development.
What is it and how can parents develop this skill in their children through simple games and activities?
In this article I’ll share some fun auditory perception activities for kids in preschool and kindergarten.
What is Auditory Perception?
Auditory perception (or auditory perceptual skills) is the brain’s ability to interpret sound that is heard through the ears. It is about attaching meaning to the sound.
Why is Auditory Perception Important for a Child?
Auditory perception is important and necessary for your child’s language development, which is part of his overall cognitive development.
Auditory Perceptual Development and Reading
In order for a child to successfully learn to read, he needs to have well-developed auditory perceptual skills, as well as visual perceptual skills.
Learning to read is not as simple as learning the letters of the alphabet and sounding them out. It involves a child’s ability to manipulate sound and attach the correct meaning to it.
Reading involves multiple auditory perceptual skills such as auditory memory, discrimination, comprehension, analysis and synthesis. These are all explained below.
Aspects of Auditory Perception
Auditory perception skills can be categorized into the following types or aspects:
This refers to a child’s ability to distinguish between different sounds, and hear similarities and differences (e.g. to hear the difference between chair and share, or rack and rake).
Sound may differ in intensity, pitch, duration and interval.
Auditory memory is the ability to store and remember what has been heard, whether sounds are related or unrelated.
Auditory Sequential Memory is the ability to remember these sounds in the order they were presented.
Auditory Analysis and Synthesis
This is your child’s ability to break up sounds as well as put them together. This is crucial for learning to read and spell.
Analysis is the ability to break a sentence into words, a word into syllables, or a word into sounds – necessary for learning to spell.
Synthesis is the ability to put sounds or words together (e.g. c-a-t) – necessary for learning to read.
Auditory Foreground-Background Discrimination
Also known as auditory figure-ground, this refers to the ability to focus attention on particular sounds, even when there are other sounds in the background.
A child with this ability can focus on his mother’s voice in a noisy place or listen to what the teacher is saying even though there are children whispering behind him or noises outside the window he is seated next to.
How to Develop and Improve Your Child’s Auditory Perception
Auditory cognition is developed from birth through play.
As you stimulate your baby with different sounds – through speaking, singing, toys, reading to him, listening to sounds in the environment, etc. – he learns to distinguish between them and attach meaning to sound.
Developing Auditory Perception in Preschool
The preschool years are a time of major learning and it is a crucial time for doing auditory perceptual skills activities. This is because the more these skills are developed, the easier it will be to learn to read when starting school.
They are also important for your child’s language and speech development.
Children continue to naturally develop perception through play. As a parent, the best way you can actively help develop and improve auditory perception is through playing games and doing auditory activities with your child.
This post contains affiliate links for educational products that I personally recommend. If you purchase through one of them, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Read the disclosure for more details.
22 Auditory Perception Activities for Preschoolers
Here are some examples of simple auditory perception activities you can do with your preschoolers in just 5 or 10 minutes a day to sharpen their ears!
Some are general activities that should be done regularly, such as reading, and others are ideas of specific games to play.
Read to your child every single day if possible. Use different tones, voices and speeds as you read.
Don’t forget about nonsense rhymes and books that focus on rhyme. Every child should grow up listening to Dr Seuss books to train their ears to hear different sounds.
Talk to your child every opportunity you get, asking him open-ended questions and encouraging him to respond.
3. Nursery Rhymes
Expose your child to a wide variety of music – children’s songs, theatre, current popular music, musicals, etc.
Teach your child about different instruments and play with them often. Improvise by making cymbals with pot lids, drums with boxes, shakers with toilet rolls and rice, etc.
This is a great set of instruments if you’d like to buy some.
6. Musical Statues
The musical statues game is another fun game to help build your child’s auditory perception.
Play music and pause it every now and then. Your child must dance to the music and freeze like a statue every time the music stops. A variation is musical chairs – when the music stops your child must run quickly and sit on a chair.
Teach your child the sounds that animals and objects make (e.g. birds, mammals, a vacuum cleaner, a car, etc.)
Then, play a game where you take turns taking out a picture of an animal or object from a bag. Without showing the picture, make the sound and the other must guess what object or animal it is.
Play this game with real objects too. One of you closes your eyes and listens while the other makes household sounds such as shutting a door, switching on the blender, sweeping, etc.
8. Listening Walk
Go on a listening walk in the garden, the park or around the neighbourhood. Identify all the sounds you hear, whether natural or man-made, such as wind, leaves crunching, chirping, cars on the motorway, an airplane, etc.
9. Recorded Sounds
Record sounds around the house, in nature or even animal sounds if you can catch your pets in time. Play the recording and see how many sounds your child can identify.
This is easy to do now that most cellular phones have a recording function.
10. Glass Jars
Fill glass jars with different amounts of water. Tap them with a spoon and arrange them from the lowest to the highest sound.
Play this game when other family members or friends are around. Ask your child to close his eyes. Then, someone says a sentence and your child must guess whose voice it is.
12. Body Sounds
Think of ways to make sounds with your bodies, such as clapping, clicking, tapping or yawning. Then, one of you closes your eyes and guesses what body sound the other is making.
13. Sound Jars
Find at least 6 jars or tins that you cannot see inside and fill matching pairs with the same materials (e.g. 2 with beans. 2 with lentils, 2 with macaroni). Get your child to shake the tins and place the matching pairs together.
14. Listen for the Word
While reading a story, choose a word and ask your child to clap each time he hears the word (e.g. read Little Red Riding Hood and ask him to clap every time he hears the word wolf).
15. Body Rhymes
Teach rhyming by pointing to a body part and saying a word that rhymes with it, instead of the correct word. Ask your child for the rhyming word that is correct. (e.g. point to your eye and say sky, point to your ear and say dear, point to your hand and say land etc).
16. Do They Sound the Same?
Say pairs of similar sounding, or identical sounding words and ask your child if they are the same or different (e.g. say bear and beer, chair and share, pat and pat, put and pit etc).
17. Do They Rhyme?
Say pairs of words and ask if they rhyme (e.g. house and mouse, pat and cat, lap and lip, etc.)
18. Chain of Rhyming Words
Make a chain of words with your child by choosing a simple word such as cat and taking turns adding a word that rhymes with it (e.g. cat, sat, pat, mat, fat, etc.)
See how many words you can add to the list then pick a new word and play the game again.
19. I Spy With My Little Eye
Play this popular game by choosing an object in the room and saying “I spy with my little eye something that starts with b”. Begin with easier consonants and move onto vowels later.
Use the sound at first, not the letter name (e.g. say “ssss”, not “letter s”).
20. String of Words
Say a string of words to your child and ask him to repeat them back to you in order. With a young child, start with just three words, then move onto four, five and six as he gets better at memorizing them in order.
Also, begin with related words to make it easier to remember (pizza, ham, mushroom) and later switch to unrelated words (glass, book, song).
21. Clap Your Name
Teach syllables by clapping to your and your child’s name together (e.g. Ma-ry-anne, Su-zie).
A syllable is a part of a word that contains only one vowel sound and is pronounced as a unit. A word can be made up of one or several syllables. “Bed” and “rain’ are examples of words with one syllable, while “bedroom” and “rainbow’ have two.
Clap together on each syllable. Call them beats to make it easier to understand.
Then, introduce common words and clap the syllables together. Start with one syllable (bed, door), then two (ke-ttle, mon-key), all the way up to 5 (con-gra-tu-la-tions, re-fri-ge-ra-tor).
22. What Word Is It?
Teach your child to put sounds together with this game.
Break words up by splitting them into the beginning sound and final sound. Say, for example, “It starts with b and ends with ed. Put it together and it says ….?” Start with simple words and make them more difficult as you go.
Then, switch over and separate the end sound – “It starts with trai and ends with n. Put it together and it says…?”
Auditory Processing Disorder
Some parents may find that their children have problems with auditory perception. Here are some common manifestations of children who struggle with auditory processing:
- They struggle to process what they hear when there is any background noise, but they seem to understand better in a one-on-one situation
- They struggle to remember what they were told
- They can’t carry out long instructions and need them to be broken up into smaller instructions
- They have poor attention
- They have an expressive or receptive language delay
- They struggle with reading and spelling
- They need more time to process information
You may have heard of the term Auditory Processing Disorder. A child with APD is able to hear but struggles to process the information received from the ears [source].
Here is a video explaining the symptoms to look out for:
APD should be diagnosed by a professional. Here are some ways to help a child with APD [source], though they should not replace therapeutic help as these will only make it easier to cope, but not really fix the underlying problem.
- Speak slowly to the child
- Use visual clues as well as verbal when giving instructions
- Make sure the child is focused on you before speaking
- Allow the child to sit in front of the class, away from distractions
Make sure to test your child’s hearing first to ensure he does not have a hearing problem. Here are some common signs of a hearing problem:
- Not understanding simple instructions
- Not responding when you call him
- Turning the volume of the TV too loud when watching
- Speaking loudly
I hope you have enjoyed reading about auditory perception.
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.
De Witt, M. 2016. The Young Child in Context: A psycho-social perspective. Second edition. Van Schaik Publishers: Pretoria.
Hendrick, H. 1990. Total Learning: Developmental Curriculum for the Young Child. Third Edition. Macmillan Publishing Company: New York.
Pieterse, M. 2007. Language and School Readiness. Metz Press: Welgemoed.