6 Fun Games to Improve Listening Skills at Home and School

Published February 20, 2020

Games can be a fun tool to teach effective listening and help children develop auditory skills. Listening is key to following directions and developing the ability to remember concepts taught in the classroom and, later on, in the workplace. Listening is also central to developing and maintaining healthy, fulfilling relationships.

Sometimes, kids need practice to improve their listening skills. Games create a lively opportunity to use repetitive activities that enhance these skills and cultivate auditory and literacy development. You can even use games to exercise the brain and promote retention of information. Listening activities condition children to develop new vocabulary and recognize appropriate grammar.

Here are several fun ways to work on listening with kids at home or at school.

Hot or Cold

Following directions and deciphering clues is an early listening skill that is critical to young children’s social and academic development. Hot or Cold is a simple and fun way to exercise those skills anywhere you happen to be.

To play Hot or Cold, try hiding a small toy or treat and use verbal cues to help your child find the item. Use simple directions but emphasize that finding the treasure hinges on their ability to listen to you. As the child gets closer to the item, tell them they’re hotter, and when they’re going in the wrong direction let them know by telling them they’re getting colder.

For younger children, be sure to affirm their progress more often to keep them from getting frustrated. Older children can wait longer for a “hot or cold,” but be sure to declare hot or cold if they make a significant adjustment like changing direction.

Mother May I

Mother May I requires children to wait their turn, then follow specific directions in order to meet their goal of reaching “mother”.

The person who is the “mother” stands on one end of a space, while the other players line up at the other end. Each player takes a turn asking if they can move (Mother, May I take 3 giant steps forward?) Lots of fun listening here. It’s also great for following directions and taking turns being the leader.

Simon Says

Facilitate an old-fashioned game of Simon Says as a way to emphasize the importance of focus and following directions. Try saying, “Simon says touch your toes and then say sit on the floor.” If your child follows the second direction without hearing Simon says, they lose. This game reinforces how effective listening relates to following directions.

For older children, use a picture that includes geometrical shapes. Give the child a blank piece of paper and then describe the picture and ask them to draw what they hear. Compare the two pictures and discuss how listening to directions played a role in replicating the picture.

Red Light, Green Light

The object of this game is to run as fast as you can when the light is green, and stop when it’s red. The first person to reach the “light” wins, and anyone caught moving during a red light has to start over.

Start with the traditional red light means stop and green light means go. You can ifferent colors means different types of movement, like yellow light means skipping, purple light means crab walking or blue light means hopping

Pretend to be a different animal for different colors (yellow = lion, green = bunny, purple = frog, etc) you can say words that rhyme with red or green to see if they catch the difference “Bread Light! Teen Light!” Very silly, and quite fun.


The ability to grasp rhythmic patterns encourages the development of listening skills and helps young children improve their language skills.

Try clapping simple patterns and ask your child to clap it back to you.

Older children can benefit from growing their awareness of how listening can impact the outcome of a project. Whisper a sentence to one child and ask them to repeat the sentence to the person sitting next to them. Continue this until everyone has heard the sentence. Ask the final child to say the sentence aloud. Ask the group why the sentence changed and stress the importance of listening in everyday life.

Guess Who

Playing games with varying sounds helps children learn to identify and connect sounds with objects, which promotes perception and language development.

Try making animal sounds or use a recording and ask your child to identify the animal they hear. To help younger children, you can have them choose the animal from a group of pictures. This listening and identification activity will reinforce the connection between sounds and symbols.

For older children, try sharing ten key concepts, then ask them to write down five of the concepts they heard. Repeat this three or four times to connect listening with memory and content retention.

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