20 Listening Games and Activities for Preschoolers

Listening skills are critical for language development and reading. Children learn new vocabulary and expand their sentences and grammar—all thanks to listening. Poor listening skills might result in difficulty following directions and difficulty learning new words and constructing grammatically correct sentences.

Listening involves paying attention to environmental sounds, music, conversations, and stories. Below are a few listening activities and games that target the components of listening that were mentioned above.

1. What animal made that sound?

Have the child sit with his or her back to you, or put a scarf over his or her eyes. Make different animal sounds and have the child guess what animal makes that sound. Another way of playing this game is to hand a child two animal toys or pictures of animals, and then ask him or her to point to the animal that makes the particular sound.
 
2. What sound is missing?

Give the child three pictures of animals or plastic toy animals, and have him or her listen to two animal sounds that you make. Then, ask the child to identify which animal did not make any sound. For example, give the child three pictures—one of a duck, one of a cow, and one of a pig—and make the sound for a duck and a pig, but not for a cow. The child needs to say that the cow was the animal that did not make any sound. This activity could be played with different musical instruments and other common objects that make sounds, such as keys, paper, etc. You can make this game less or more complicated by adding or removing the number of objects/pictures you present or by adding sounds, etc.
 
3. Guess the instrument

This activity is similar to the first activity except, this time, the child guesses the name of the instrument that made the sound.
 
4. Little composer

Have the child imitate your way of playing an instrument. For example, using a xylophone, hit one of the bars once or twice and have the child imitate you. You can make this more or less complicated by hitting more bars or playing a short tune.
 
5. Magical sound box

Put different objects, such as keys, paper, beans in a bottle, etc., into a covered box, and then manipulate one of the objects asking a child to tell you what he or she heard. You might need to introduce the child to different objects and sounds before playing this game. 
 
6. Soft or loud

Make soft vs. loud sounds using different objects, such as cars, and have the child state if the sound he or she heard was soft or loud.
 
7. Musical chairs
 
8. Simon says
 
9. Copy cat game

Ask a child to imitate the act of clapping. Clap your hands with different intensity, speed, and rhythm.
 
10. I spy with my little eye

Describe different objects in the room, and have the child guess what they are.
 
11. What did the teddy bear say?

Hold up a teddy bear while making different and interesting sounds, or say some words. The sounds could include environmental sounds, single speech sounds, or various syllabic shapes, such as consonant-vowel-consonants (CVCs), words, or sentences.
 
12. Finish my line

Ask the child to finish your sentences. You can use popular children’s songs, poems, or everyday phrases, e.g., “Twinkle, twinkle little…”
 
13. Green light, red light

Have the child perform some motor actions, or use toy cars to play this game. When the child hears red, he or she needs to stop the activity and start over when he or she hears green.
 
14. Listening to stories

Read short stories and ask the child questions or have him or her retell the story.
 
15. Did I get it?

Ask the child to tell you what you should say. You may ask the child to tell you what sound, word, or sentence you should say. After you say what the child told you to say, his or her job is to tell you if you said it exactly the way he or she did. For example, if the child asked you to say, “Keys in the box”, you would say, “Keys in the shoe”, followed by the question “Did I get it?” The child should respond by saying “No.”
 
16. Sounds at Home app

This app includes the following listening activities: identification of environmental sounds, rhyming, identification of initial sounds, and identification of final sounds, following 1-step directions with one element, following 1-step directions with two elements, following 2-step directions, and following 2-step temporal directions. 
 
17. Auditory Workout app

This app includes hundreds of basic, special, quantitative, temporal, and conditional directions—each with at least 13 levels of difficulty.
 
18. Main Street Memory app

This app focuses on following functional directions in various stores.
 
19. Farm Academy app

This app focuses on following directions using farm animals, vegetables, and fruit.
 
20. Seasonal Directions app

This app includes 1-step and multi-step directions related to the seasons.
 

Beata Klarowska, M.S. CCC-SLP

Beata Klarowska is an American Speech Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certified speech and language pathologist, licensed by the state of California.Beata cofounded Virtual Speech Center Inc. in 2011 and, to date, has developed more than 30 apps for speech, language, and cognition.

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