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5 Activities For Building Listening Comprehension Skills

by | May 26, 2022 | Core Skills

You want your kids to be active listeners who understand what others are saying and follow directions well. To help them accomplish this goal, you can work on listening comprehension skills at home.
Let’s look more closely at what listening comprehension is and explore a handful of fun activities you can use to support your child as they develop these skills.

What Is Listening Comprehension?

Blonde girl listening on a tin can communicator

Listening comprehension is the ability to understand spoken language. It’s a complex process that involves hearing, understanding, and responding to what’s being said.

For kids, listening comprehension skills are important for following directions at school and in everyday life. Good listening comprehension skills can also help with reading comprehension.

That’s because when kids listen to someone read aloud, they can picture the story in their minds, which helps them understand and remember what they’ve heard.

Hearing and phonological awareness both play a role in listening comprehension, but they are different. Let’s take a look.

The Difference Between Hearing And Listening

Hearing is the ability to detect sound. You need your ears and auditory system to function properly to hear.

Listening, on the other hand, is an active process. It’s what you do with what you hear. When you listen, you pay attention to the sounds around you, and your brain tries to make sense of them.

You can hear without necessarily listening. For example, you might be in a crowded room and hear many conversations going on at once. But you’re not really listening to any of them because the words all sort of jumble together into a lull.

Hearing and listening are both important for understanding spoken language.

Note: If your child is having trouble hearing, make sure you bring your concerns up with their healthcare provider.

Mom teaching her daughter the alphabet

Age-Appropriate Listening Comprehension Skills

Listening comprehension skills develop over time. As your child grows and matures, they’ll be able to understand more and more of what’s being said to them.

From birth to about three years old, children’s listening skills rapidly develop. They start to understand more words and can follow simple commands. By age three, most children can understand around 1,000 words and complete basic one- or two-step directions.

As children get older, they continue to develop their listening skills. By age four, children can usually understand longer and more complex sentences. And by age five or six, they can usually follow more complicated, multi-step instructions.

However, it’s important to remember that every child develops at their own pace. So, if your child is a bit behind meeting the milestones for their age group, don’t worry. There’s a good chance they’ll catch up in time.

Benefits Of Listening Well

Young girl whispering to young boy

Listening is a critical life skill that allows us to communicate effectively. When you listen actively, you’re more likely to understand the other person’s point of view. This can help prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Listening also allows us to build better relationships and become better friends. When you take the time to truly listen to others, it shows them that you value their opinion.

Additionally, listening can help resolve conflicts. When we listen to others, we better understand their perspective and find common ground. This can diffuse tense situations and prevent arguments from escalating.

How To Help Your Child Be A Better Listener

There are a few simple things you can do to help your child become a better listener. Before we get to the fun activities, let’s talk about three quick strategies to help your child listen well.

Model Good Listening

One of the best ways to help your child develop their listening skills is to model good listening yourself. When you’re talking to your child, make sure to give them your full attention. Put away any distractions, make eye contact, and actively listen to what they’re saying.

This can be a challenge, especially if you have a lot on your plate. But it’s important to make the effort, as it will set a good example for your child.

If you’re not sure how to actively listen, here are a few tips:

  • Repeat back what the other person said to show that you were listening
  • Ask questions about what they said to show that you’re interested
  • Summarize what they said to make sure you understand
  • Avoid interrupting and wait until they’ve finished talking

Work On Vocabulary

Two kids working on vocabulary

Another way to help your child listen better is to work with them on building their vocabulary. The more words they know, the easier it will be for them to follow conversations and understand what others are saying.

Here are a few simple ways you can help your child expand their vocabulary:

  • Read books together and talk about the characters, plot, and setting
  • Encourage them to ask questions when they hear a new word
  • Help them look up words they don’t know in the dictionary
  • Tell them stories about your own life and explain any new words

Intentionally Practice Listening Skills

Finally, you can help your child improve their listening skills by intentionally practicing them. Make practicing listening skills a priority and work on it regularly.

This can be done through fun activities and games that are specifically designed to help with listening comprehension. Keep reading for five of our favorite activities.

Fun Activities To Improve Listening Comprehension Skills

1) Story Detective

As you’re reading aloud to your child, occasionally pause and ask them to be a detective. Based on what they’ve heard so far, what do they think is going to happen next?

After your child makes a prediction, keep reading. Then, stop to talk about what happened. Did your child guess correctly? Did they miss an important clue somewhere in the story? Or was there an unexpected plot twist?

No matter how the predictions turn out, taking time to talk about them can help your child build their listening skills for next time.

2) Gibberty Fun

mom playing with daughter to help her with  listening comprehension

In this activity, ask your child to figure out what word is missing, using “gibberty” in its place. For example: “During the race, I gibberty as fast as I could. What’s my gibberty?” Or: “I had gibberty with maple syrup for breakfast. What’s my gibberty?”
Any logical word they come up with for the sentence is a win! And for even more fun, have your child try the game on you.

3) Telephone

To play this game, you’ll need a group of people. One person whispers a phrase or sentence into the ear of the person next to them. That person then whispers what they heard to the next person, and so on.

By the time the phrase gets back to the original speaker, it’s usually quite different from what was said originally. This is a great way to illustrate how important it is to listen carefully and enunciate well when you speak so others can understand you.

4) Name That Sound

Gather a few common household objects and have your child close their eyes. Then, make a sound with each one. For instance, you might tap a pot with a spoon or crinkle a piece of paper.

After you’ve made a sound, ask your child to identify the object you used. If they’re struggling, give them a few hints.

This activity works on auditory discrimination and memory, both skills that will help with listening comprehension even though words specifically are not part of the activity.

5) Do 3 Things

Ask your child to do three specific tasks, in order. See if they can do them all correctly.

For example, say, “Can you please water the flower, pick up two things from off the coffee table, and then get your shoes on so we can go outside and play?”

Feel free to make it even more engaging by choosing from tasks like these:

  • Do 10 jumping jacks
  • Hop to the swingset and back
  • Make a tower out of the couch cushions
  • Drive a toy car to pick up a piece of trash on the floor
  • Write your name with your opposite hand

Listening Comprehension In Childhood And Beyond

Family laughing and smiling together

Use the expert tips above to help your child develop their listening comprehension skills. Your child can become a better listener — it just takes time and practice.

For more fun learning games, check out the HOMER app. Your child will have a blast playing and will be working on important skills at the same time!


Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos
Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos

Chief Learning Officer at Begin

Jody has a Ph.D. in Developmental Science and more than a decade of experience in the children’s media and early learning space.