Will You Listen? – Ideas for helping children to notice and practise the skills of listening.

I think most of us would agree that we want children to be observant and have the ability to notice the world around them. But how much time do we spend giving children the opportunities to become better listeners?  By that I mean time to focus and really observe the sounds around them. Observing and noticing detail is an important thinking skill I believe.


We know that it is very important for young children to develop their auditory discrimination skills; a vital part of learning phonics is based on what they can hear. But I think we should be presenting more opportunities to children throughout their primary years to develop and practise the skill of what I call ‘intent listening.’

It contributes to them becoming a better conversationalist and communicator as well as providing great opportunities to enhance their language and vocabulary.


Here are a few examples of quick, easy and fun things to do with children to help them do just that. (Adapt, add to and amend as needed.)


If you’re a teacher – why not think about some ‘Listening Homework’ from time to time?



  • Sit quietly in your bedroom and listen for sounds - - make a list of your 5 favourites and where they are coming from.
  • Sit outside and listen specifically for sounds that are natural – animals, weather etc.
  • Close your eyes in the kitchen when a meal is being prepared – what sort of sounds can you hear?


Go to other places of your choice and draw or list

  • The sounds made by machines
  • The 3 loudest sounds /3 softest sounds
  • The most unusual sound
  • The most annoying sound
  • How many different people were speaking – what sort of voices did they have?



Over time children can build up a bank of ‘sound words’ – encouraged by you to think of different ones that are interesting and fun. Inventing new, made up words for sounds you hear can be good fun too.


If your child has a phone – or access to yours – leave them a voicemail message and ask them to listen to it and then tell you what it said an hour later.


Give your child three instructions in one go:  e.g. Tap your head 3 times, touch your right foot and then turn around clockwise.

They have to listen carefully and carry out the instructions accurately.


Tongue Twisters – collect a few good ones to try out.  Practising tongue twisters involve listening to others but also yourself - to check you’re getting it right.


Here’s some that were on the Thinking Child Facebook page the other day:

Many an anemone sees an enemy anemone.
Freshly-fried flying fish.
Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager
imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.
Ed had edited it.


Spot the difference:

  • Read out two sentences that are exactly the same except for one word that has changed.  Can your child spot the word?
  • You can also play the game using sentences that children have written.
  • Try speaking at different speeds and in high, low, silly voices – is one easier than another?
  • What kind of words are the most difficult to spot?
  • Try the game with two sentences – with only one word difference.


Listen to music and pick out different instruments being played.


Let children choose a favourite passage from a story (or you can help them choose one). Read it a few times to remember the main points. Invent a sequence of ‘special effects’ to go with that passage. E.g. if it’s a ‘spooky story’ you might have a crisp packet rustling for the wind in the trees… Your child does the special effects as you read out the passage.



There are many more quick and easy fun things to do that will help children become better listeners.  It’s just a question of making the time to… Just Listen.


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