Listening Games and Activities for Kids: In this post, we will explore what is listening, fun ways to teach kids how to listen effectively, and 18 listening skills activities and games for kids. You will also be able to download your free PDF “Whole Body Listening Worksheets”.
What is Listening?
Listening is a complex construct that goes beyond the physiological process of hearing.
E.C. Glenn analyzed 50 definitions of listening and found that most of them included the following components:
These are three popular definitions of listening:
“Listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages”
(ILA –International Listening Association, 1995)
“Listening is the complete process by which oral language communicated by some source is received, critically and purposefully attended to, recognized, and interpreted (or comprehended) in terms of past experiences and future expectancies” (Petrie, 1964)
“Listening is hearing, understanding, remembering, interpreting, evaluating, and responding” (Brownell, 2002).
As L. Janusik suggests, we would probably need different definitions to capture different types of listening:
- Conversational listening, where the listener is expected to provide a response
- Linear Listening (like watching TV) where no response is necessary
The cognitive processes involved in different types of listening will be different too.
Why are Listening Skills Important for Kids
Good listening skills will provide a foundation to succeed in different areas:
- Social / Communication
Most of our communication time is spent listening.
Listening skills are essential for effective social communication.
Listening comprehension is critical for academic success (McDevitt, Sheenan, and McMenamin, 1991)
If you think about it, you will realize that we spend most of our awake time listening.
Our kids utilize their listening skills in:
- social interactions / when interacting with other kids or adults
- learning environment / when listening to a teacher delivering educational content
- instructional settings / following orders or instructions
- leisure time / listing to music/ T.V.
Related reading: Social Skills for Kids
How to Teach Kids Listening Skills
These are many models and resources that can help our kids improve their listening skills.
I have selected two of those resources that I feel you may find interesting:
- Whole Body Listening
- HUEIRE Listening Model
Whole Body Listening
“Whole Body Listening” is one of the most popular tools to teach younger kids listening skills.
Whole Body Listening (WBL) was developed by Susanne Marie Poulette, a speech-language pathologist who worked in schools with children with communications difficulties.
WBL teaches kids that listening goes beyond using their ears.
Listening engages all your senses:
- Eyes on the speaker
- Mouth quiet
- Hands to yourself
- Body facing the speaker
- Brain thinking about what the speaker is saying
S.M. Poulette emphasizes that WBL is a tool, not a rule, for active listening.
She encourages us to be flexible and modify WBL as needed for students who have special needs, difficulty with self-regulation, or discomfort with eye contact.
HURIER Listening Model
One of the listening definitions that I listed in this post’s introduction was coined by J. Brownell .
Brownell, professor of organizational communication, developed the HURIER listening model that describes six stages of listening: hearing, understanding, remembering, interpreting, evaluating, and responding.
There are some things that we can do in each of these stages that will help us improve listening:
- H- Hearing -> Focus, eliminate distractions
- U- Understanding -> Ask questions, ensure understanding
- R- Remembering -> Stay focused, memory techniques
- I- Interpreting -> Interpret accurately, decode the emotional message and non-verbal cues
- E- Evaluating -> Listen to the whole message before responding
- R- Responding -> Respond appropriately, remember your responses influence others
Source: Brownell, J. (2002). Listening: Attitudes, principles, and skills
Fun Listening Games and Activities for Kids
There are many fun games and activities that can get our kids to practice their listening skills.
Most of these are classic games that we have all played in our childhood.
I have also included a Whole Body Listening worksheet for kids.
These are 18 fun listening games for kids to help them practice their listening skills:
- Whole Body Listening Worksheets
These are some fun worksheets to help you teach your kids or students that we use all our body to ensure we are listening effectively.
As I mentioned in the previous section, this listening skills activity teaches kids how to use different parts of their bodies to ensure effective listening.
You will find a download link at the end of this article.
- Broken Telephone
This is a classic listening game.
Sitting in a circle, ask the first child to whisper a message to the ear of the person sitting on one either side. That child proceeds to pass on the message to the next one, and so on. When the round is finished, the first and last children compare their messages. Usually, the last message is completely unrecognizable!
- Simon Says
Whoever takes the role of “Simon” issues a string of instructions (jump, touch your nose, hop on your left foot…) to be followed only if the sentence starts with “Simon says…”. If the instruction is executed but it didn’t start with “Simon says” the player is eliminated.
- Musical Statues
Dance to the sound of music and freeze when the music stops
- Follow the Story
Start a story. Every few sentences a new kid is chosen to continue where the previous one left it.
- Take Turns with Nursery Rhymes
Similar to what we did with “Follow the story”, start a well-known nursery rhyme. Each time you say a child’s name, they continue the song where the previous one left it.
- Red Light, Green Light
Another classic activity: when your child hears the words “Green light” they can move forward, but when they hear “Red light” they must freeze.
- Identify Sounds
Play a sound and ask the child to identify it. It can be animal sounds, instruments.
We use Sound Touch, but I’m sure there are many others.
Turn your living room (or classroom) into a stage. Assign roles and let the show begin
- Conversation Role Play
Role-play real-life conversations
- String of Words
Did you play this game in your childhood?
“I went to the supermarket and bought…”, as you go around, each kid adds a new item. They need to state the previous items plus a new one of their choice.
- Find something on the map
Print copies of a map. Deliver spoken instructions to arrive to a certain place (or find something on the map)
- Draw what I say
Deliver instructions for a drawing that all the kids will need to follow. For example: “There is a house in the middle of the page, a tree grows next to the house to the left, the sun is….”
- Storytime: listen to a story /audiobooks for older kids
- Guess what I’m describing
Choose something that you will describe, for example, a lion. Then, share clues, one at a time, till somebody guesses what you are describing
“It is an animal / It has four legs / It lives in the wild / etc.”
- Remove words from a song
We used to sing a song when I was a child that repeated some words quite often.
We used to first sing all the (short) song, and then start removing words.
For example (this is a different song, our song was in Spanish)
“Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One fell down and bumped his head,
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”
Now you remove the word “monkeys” and make a sound instead
Then you remove the word “bed”, so you don’t say either “monkey” or “bed”
You remove as many words as you wish. It’s quite fun.
- Continue the song
Let’s continue singing. This time only one person sings, but after a few verses that person stops and chooses who continues the song.
- “Locating the square”
Hand out a grid like the ones we use to play battleship.
Select a starting square (eg. D4) and give spoken instruction to reach your selected target square (5 to the right, 2 up, 1 to the left, 3 down….)
What other listening games do you play at home or school?
Other Social Skills Activities and Games
Would you like to read more articles about social skills activities and games?
You may be interested in these posts:
- Social Skills Activities for Kids
- Social Skills Games
- Assertive Communication Worksheets for Kids
- Turn-Taking Activities for Kids
Whole Body Listening Worksheets (Free PDF)
Download your free listening skills activity below 👇
I hope you enjoy it👆!