banner svg (1)

​​How to Improve Active Listening Skills in Children

See what activities can help improve children's active listening skills.

​​How to Improve Active Listening Skills in Children

​​How to Improve Active Listening Skills in Children

Listening plays an integral part in a child's development. It enables children to develop their vocabulary, speech, language skills, and comprehension. Active listening skills in children help to improve their communication and equip them to connect effectively with others.

By understanding the importance of active listening, you can help prepare your preschoolers for the future and identify the best ways to incorporate listening activities into your lesson plans.

Why is active listening important?

In active listening, the speaker has the hearer’s full, undivided attention. Active listening is the opposite of passive listening, where the hearer only hears what the speaker is saying but is not attempting to understand them. The hearer may be distracted or may be doing multiple things at once, preventing the hearer from giving the speaker their full attention. 

Active listening allows the hearer to understand and relate to the speaker, free of judgment and contention. You can model active listening for your preschoolers by giving them various cues, such as:

  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Stopping what you're doing to give them your full attention
  • Smiling and nodding your head
  • Asking questions
  • Responding orally to acknowledge that you hear them and encourage them to continue speaking

So, why is active listening essential? Active listening is the key to preventing miscommunication, which can lead to more significant issues and misunderstandings. Concentrating on the speaker and listening to learn and understand helps put people at ease and creates a safe and welcoming space for them to communicate comfortably. Instilling active listening skills in children helps to:

  • Improve their problem-solving skills
  • Help them be productive and resourceful
  • Create better teacher-child relationships
  • Develop a safe and positive classroom environment
  • Enhance communication among teachers and children, children and their families, and children and their classmates

Active listening skills are vital to creating better communicators, learners, and friends. When children learn to listen and understand others early on, they're better prepared to self-regulate and explore their emotions and impulses, remember and process information, and positively reinforce, connect, and support others.

multi-ethnic group of preschool children clapping and singing along to a song


How to improve listening skills

Active listening can be a struggle for some children due to various factors. For example, some children may struggle with paying attention; others may struggle with language comprehension or processing, or behavioral or attention disorders; and some may simply lack interest in the topic being discussed. The following are a few strategies you can use to help improve active listening skills in children:

  • Encouraging eye contact by getting down to the child's level and making eye contact when talking to them.
  • Repeating important information and summarizing key points can help reinforce a preschooler's understanding and improve their ability to recall information.
  • Using role-playing games, stories, and interactive activities that involve children listening and responding to different prompts.
  • Encouraging preschoolers to actively participate in the lesson by asking questions, sharing their ideas, and providing feedback. This can help improve their listening skills and promote cognitive and social development.
  • Implementing multisensory learning to engage two or more of their senses. This can help them listen and understand better.

These strategies can help preschoolers develop better active listening skills, making learning, communicating, and following instructions easier.

Types of listening

In addition to active listening, other types of listening are critical to a child's development.

Critical listening occurs when children listen to understand what's being said and evaluate the information to draw a conclusion or make a decision. An example of critical listening is children listening to the teacher read The Tortoise and the Hare to the class and discussing the story's moral afterward.

Discriminative listening is used when children are developing phonemic awareness. During this type of listening, children pay attention to rhyming sounds and the sounds different letters and letter groups make within words. This type of listening is foundational to eventually understanding the intention of what's being said based on verbal cues and changes in tone and pitch. An example of this type of listening is reading books or poems to children and asking them to identify which words rhyme. 

Aesthetic listening is used when children listen to music, videos, stories, or plays strictly for pleasure. While they may learn new things from the material, the activity is only for enjoyment and imagination. Examples include listening to audiobooks or singing songs with the class.

Efferent listening occurs when children listen to understand and typically applies when they're taking directions from teachers at school or their parents at home. This type of listening also applies when digesting information when listening to books read aloud, watching videos, or recalling details. An example of efferent listening is children listening to a teacher’s instructions on how to complete an activity.

Listening activities for children

You can do several activities with your preschoolers to help improve their listening skills. Many of these activities are fun and will keep them engaged while building and encouraging them to improve their listening skills. Some activities include:

  • Reading aloud
  • Singing preschool songs
  • Introducing them to different sounds using bottles or sound shaker cylinders
  • Counting or reciting the alphabet aloud

For more engaging activities, consider:

  • Musical chairs: In this game, have children walk around a group of chairs while music plays. When the music stops, they have to sit quickly in a chair. Since there is one less chair than there are children, one child is left standing and is out of the game. You can continue playing the game until one child remains as the winner.
  • Popcorn storytelling: One child starts telling a story and then picks another child to continue the story.
  • Simon says: One person, either the teacher or the child, plays Simon, and the other children gather around as Simon gives instructions. For example, "Simon says... raise your hands." If the person playing Simon doesn't say, "Simon says," before giving the instruction, the instruction should not be followed.
  • Follow the directions: A simple activity involving walking children through directions, such as folding a piece of paper and drawing a star. This encourages them to listen and follow directions correctly. 
  • Red light, green light: Start by lining children up along a starting line. When you say “Green light,” everyone can move forward toward the finish line. When you say “Red light,” everyone must stop. If players continue moving, they must go back to the starting line.
  • The telephone game: A message is given to the first person in a line of children, who must whisper the message to the next person. This continues until it reaches the end of the line. That person then announces the message to the rest of the group to see if it's changed from what was initially said.

As you incorporate these activities into your lessons, tracking and celebrating each child’s progress is important to identify and monitor the areas they may need help in. Using brightwheel’s daily activity report feature, you and your staff can document their progress and achievements and share updates and daily reports with their families.

group of young kids listening to teacher


Make listening activities exciting for your class

The best and most effective way to teach children practical listening skills is by being a positive example. Children are like sponges and easily soak up what they see around them. So set a good example by taking the time to listen, understand, and communicate with them. When conversing with them, make sure you're focused and engaged and are making eye contact. Remember that children learn better through practice and play, so incorporating hands-on, fun activities into your lesson plans is essential.

Subscribe to the brightwheel blog