Skip to main content

Listening games: Everything you can do with them for learning

Children and an educator in a nursery playing listening games

Many activities can help a child learn how to listen properly. But listening games can make learning a true adventure.

Here, you can discover interactive activities that can capture young minds and foster skills necessary for language development and social engagement.

Dive into the realm of educational play with listening activities they can all enjoy!

What are “listening games”?

Listening games are activities where children practise listening and responding. They include listening components that are easily adaptable to different ages and groups. Whether you are dealing with young learners or even teenagers, you can tweak them to suit the occasion.

No more dull exercises. Instead, welcome interactive, lively learning into the mix. Through active engagement, these games will create attentive listeners ready for academic and social success.

Why are they important?

Listening plays a crucial role in development, with even simple hand-eye coordination activities involving listening cues. Listening games help to give children a confidence boost and a deeper understanding of communication. Through activities like these, children gain the skills to listen attentively, think critically, and respond appropriately to others.

Listening games encourage collaboration and nurture essential social skills, such as empathy, respect, and understanding. Along the way, children will also acquire skills, including:

  • Essential auditory perception for reading
  • Capacity to follow verbal instructions at school
  • Proficiency in socialisation and effective communication
  • Coping skills for both home and school environments

In today’s digital age, avoiding extended screen time and excessive stimuli is a difficult task for parents. Reduced playtime can negatively impact concentration and overall performance.

The good news is that by dedicating only 5 to 10 minutes daily to honing these skills at home, you can make a big difference in your child’s overall listening ability, aiding in better focus at school.

Listening skills are crucial to holistic cognitive development. It’s important to start these activities as early as possible – from exposure to sounds and music during infancy and continuing through preschool and primary education.

Teaching listening skills

Teaching children listening skills involves often overlooked yet effective strategies. A key approach is modelling exemplary listening behaviour. Show them how to actively listen, stick to polite conversation rules and offer positive reinforcement. 

By consistently observing your listening behaviours, children will begin to understand and incorporate good listening into their own communication practices.

Role modelling proper active listening

Here are some ways to check if you are role-modelling active listening effectively:

  • Eliminate all distractions, like your phone, computer, television, or a book, to ensure focus by putting these aside.
  • Make sure to maintain eye contact, as eye contact plays a vital role in effective listening and communication, demonstrating undivided attention. Even though your child may be young, they can sense when your attention wavers!
  • Demonstrate active listening by staying focused on their words while you look into their eyes.
  • Always respond appropriately, either through questions or verbal and non-verbal cues, and ensure your responses align with your child’s communication.

By actively tuning in to your children, you’re not just hearing but teaching them the vital steps to becoming exceptional listeners themselves! Always remember this: Your engagement as the listener is key.

How hard is it to introduce a listening game?

Introducing a listening game can be great fun if approached in the right way. The key thing is to make the process interactive and enjoyable. This is not just another lesson, it’s an opportunity to engage in play.  

By framing listening activities as games, the experience becomes more amusing and effective. Making the activity fun and interactive, especially when it comes to listening exercises, contributes to a smoother and more successful engagement with the task. 

Listening games you can use

Message whisperer

Engage in a game of broken telephone with family members. Begin with simple words, progressing to phrases. Whisper a message, passing it around the table. The last person repeats it aloud. Laughter ensues as messages change, enhancing listening skills. Vary with alliterations and rhymes. Switch who whispers to whom for added fun.

‘Simon says’ challenge

Play the classic Simon Says game to improve attention and listening. Issue instructions starting with “Simon Says.” Alternatively, play ‘Do This, Do That’. Perform actions, commanding either phrase. Children love the challenge, focusing on listening for instructions and actions and acquiring concentration skills.

Freeze with music

Explore ‘Musical Statues’ with your child. Dance to music, freezing when it stops. Over time, notice improvements in listening skills as your child quickly halts when the music pauses. A fun and dynamic way to enhance auditory focus and responsiveness while working on motor capabilities as well.

Zoo adventure memory

Enhance listening and memory skills with ‘I Went to the Zoo, and I Saw a…’ Starting with an animal; each participant adds a new one in sequence. Try to avoid repeating animals. 

It is ideal for group play, aiding memory development. It’s a versatile game for various word lists and themes.

Odd one out challenge

Play ‘Which One is the Odd One Out?’ by stating a theme and inserting a word that doesn’t belong. For instance, identify the odd item in a list of fruits. Progress from easy categories to more complex ones to help with attentive listening and categorisation skills.

Sound recognition challenge

Encourage listening to everyday sounds with ‘What Sound is That?’ Blindfold your child or have them turn around. Make noises in different rooms, prompting identification. This game develops sound recognition and attentiveness to environmental cues.

Nature listening walk

Embark on a listening walk, sharing sounds with your child. Explore the garden or park, discussing observed noises. A dual-purpose game for enhancing listening skills and instilling mindfulness in both children and adults.

Memory sound countdown

Challenge your child with ‘How Many Things Did You Hear?’ Close their eyes, set a timer, and ask them to recall sounds heard. Increase the duration gradually, promoting focused listening and memory retention. This is a progressive exercise for developing auditory attention.

Storytime adventure

Immerse in audiobooks or YouTube stories without visuals. Then, discuss the story afterwards. For bedtime tales, have your child close their eyes, envisioning the tale for a creative morning drawing. Downloadable printables with amusing stories are available.

Instruction challenge

Give clear, sequential instructions at home. Begin with one task, gradually advancing to five. Have your child repeat and execute each instruction. This exercise mimics classroom scenarios, honing the ability to follow multiple directions.

Drawing with directions

Engage your child in a drawing activity with specific instructions. Assess listening skills by directing them to draw various elements. Start simple and progress, incorporating questions about left and right. Enhance comprehension through creative illustration exercises.

Rhythmic action rhymes

Boost concentration and listening skills with action rhymes. Children following instructions while moving enhances learning. Engage them with rhymes like ‘Hands on Shoulders’, incorporating physical movements. Action songs contribute to better concentration and improved listening abilities in preschoolers.

Inquisitive story moments

Ask diverse questions during story sessions to enhance higher-order thinking. Encourage predictions, problem-solving, understanding cause and effect, and exploring character traits and opinions.

Spontaneous bedtime tales

Create whimsical bedtime stories together. Take turns adding one line, crafting a unique narrative. You can certainly evoke creativity and boost listening skills through this collaborative, imaginative exercise.

Silent detective

In ‘Wonky Donkey’, children sit in a circle as one becomes the ‘wonky donkey’ with covered eyes and a draped tail. Another child silently shakes the tail, saying ‘Wonky Donkey.’ The donkey, using voice recognition, guesses the shaker. Improves listening skills and encourages sound source awareness. Increase difficulty with circle movement or silly voices.

Raucous neighbour

‘Noisy Neighbour’ uses a feely bag with noisy objects. Chant ‘Noisy Neighbour!’ then make noise with an object. Children guess the sound’s origin, refining their listening skills. Start with a few objects, expanding as skills improve. For an extra challenge, skip showing the objects initially, relying solely on auditory clues for guessing.

Sea adventures

In this game, children act as sailors, responding to commands with imaginative actions. When the captain calls, they salute or perform actions like rowing, scrubbing the deck, swimming, or lifting cannonballs. A dynamic blend of role-playing and physical activity, encouraging creativity and listening skills. Mix up commands for a lively and engaging experience.

N Family club’s nurseries are inspiring environments – purpose-built to give our children access to the finest educational resources and learning experiences. Our skilled educators work within our bespoke curriculum to offer every child a unique learning journey, responding to their interests and development. Listening skills and games form part of our day-to-day education programme and through these games, children in our UK nurseries can learn critical skills to help them thrive and prepare for life beyond early years education.


How do you play the listening game?

There are many ways to play different listening games. Playing telephone, Simon says, silent detective, musical statues or different storytime challenges involve listening. By following the pointers we have given you, you will support the development of your child’s listening skills.