Simple Auditory Activities to Improve Learning and Reading

Auditory Activities and Games to Improve Listening

Auditory activities are important for kids at various stages of learning.  Activities for the auditory system improve listening skills, following directions, language development, and they help improve reading skills. (Free Reading Skills Activities PDF download available.) 

Auditory activities are a very important part of the learning process.  

Attending to different sounds is part of the development of phonological awareness and phonemic awareness.

Auditory activities improve auditory processing skills that helps improve reading skills.  Additionally, auditory learning activities help kids with life-long learning skills of listening, auditory attention, following directions, and auditory memory skills.  

Improving listening skills helps with paying attention. Which in turn helps with following directions! 

All of these skills, as well as listening, are fundamental components to learning.


How Does A Child Hear and Process Sounds?

Our ears take in sounds around us, we make sense of the sounds, and we react to them.  Seems pretty simple, right?

It’s really not! 

As noted in Visual Activities for Reading, the visual system and visual processing are extremely complex.  The hearing system is just as complex!

The auditory system is an intricate system that not only involves the ears hearing sounds but it involves the brain processing the sounds. 

Our ears take in movements from sound waves.  The waves move through several parts of the hearing system.  

At the end of this long sequence, a sensory response is created.  The sensory response sends a message to the brain.

Auditory discrimination helps us learn different sounds and understand where they’re located. 

The brain senses what the sound is and where it’s coming from.  The brain chooses to pay attention to it or to tune it out if it’s not important.

For instance, you can hear a plane in the sky or a dog barking outside. You know that it’s far away.  Your brain tunes out the noise and pays attention to other more important sounds close to you.

We also develop auditory memory skills.  We’re able to learn and remember the meaning of sounds.  Sounds trigger memory as part of learning and creating new pathways in the brain.  Additionally, our ears hear and process sounds that alert and protect us (footsteps, horn beeping, fire alarm.)

These are the basic parts of the hearing system.  When the complexity of paying attention, learning language and learning are added the brain has to work much harder!


Listening Games to Improve Reading Skills

Why Are Auditory Activities Important for Kids to Improve Reading Skills?

Listening and processing auditory information is a life skill! 

It starts in infancy and continues through adulthood.  Different learning environments require more from our brains.

From a learning perspective, a child’s brain understands that sounds, letters, words and language have meaning. 

A child’s brain picks up on sound patterns and the sequence of sounds and words.

Sounds are stored in the brain.  A child remembers the sound and retrieves the meaning automatically as they learn. 

The child begins to process longer sequences of sounds and words in order to follow multiple-step directions.

Stimulating the auditory system increases alertness in the brain. It helps with following directions, language development, reading, writing, and spelling.

Auditory activities are important for kids of all ages.  They should begin in infancy and continue throughout the elementary years.

I know of a teen who still is working on strengthening auditory skills.  It helps improve language development and reading comprehension.

Even high school students benefit from auditory activities and strategies.  For example, some kids memorize the periodic table of elements through songs and/or rhythm.  Others use mnemonic devices to help learn information.

Adults also benefit from auditory activities!

Auditory memory skills and auditory sequential memory skills are very important for reading!  The alphabet, sounds in words, and sentences all involve sequencing.

Things to Consider When Using Auditory Activities to Improve Reading Skills

As an occupational therapist, I help parents and teachers use a variety of strategies to help with different learning styles.  Some kids need more visual information to learn and others process information better through their auditory system.  

When you incorporate auditory activities for kids during routines, there are a few things to consider.

Some children are very strong auditory learners.  Many of these auditory activities and games may come naturally to them.  They will need to be challenged more.

Other kiddos may struggle with some of the listening games but that doesn’t mean they should avoid them!  It’s important to find activities that challenge kids a little and balance out the brain.  It helps to stimulate new areas of the brain!  It helps to bring everything in balance.

[If you’re concerned about a kiddo’s listening skills or think that they may have an auditory processing disorder, check out: What If Your Kid Isn’t Listening Because of Auditory Processing Difficulties?]

In addition, while the activities listed stimulate and help with listening skills, be aware that some sounds may bother some kids.  Be aware of possible auditory sensory sensitivities.  Most of your students will show you (by covering their ears) or possibly will verbalize when sounds bother them.   

The following are examples of auditory activities and listening games for kids. They’re fun and easy ways to help improve following directions and reading skills.  And more importantly, they’re great for learning to listen better.

[A few Amazon affiliate links are used below. See full disclaimer for more information.]

Auditory Activities to Improve Reading Skills

How to Improve Reading Skills with Auditory Processing Activities and Listening Games for Kids

1. Name That Sound

Play nature sounds or environmental sounds for a guessing game.  Once kids figure out the sounds, play a few in a sequence and have them remember the order.  Here are some great, free online guess the sound games for kids. 

2. Listen to Podcasts, Short Stories or Auditory Books (or an adult reading)

Some kids listen better as they’re playing with something (playdoh, coloring) or moving around.   Ask questions that have many different answers. 

Check out Amazon’s Audible Plus for a free trial or membership to have access to an array of audiobooks and podcasts.

3. Create a Thunderstorm

This is such a fun game! It sounds really cool with a group of kids.

Kids close their eyes and listen to and imitate the various sounds that they hear you make as you follow through this sequence:

  • Rub your hands together or slide your hands on the top of a desk or table for the sound of the wind. 
  • Slowly snap your fingers for the raindrops, gradually increasing the speed. 
  • Tap your fingertips on the desktop (keeping up with and increasing the speed from the snapping sound.)
  • Pat your hands on the desktop.
  • Stomp feet for the thunder! 

You can also reverse the sequence as “the storm passes away in the distance.” Stomp feet, pat hands on the desk, tap fingertips on the desk, snap fingers (decreasing the speed) and then slide the hands on a table for the wind.

4. Auditory Scavenger Hunts

Use descriptive and positional words (“find a medium shape to the right of the bookshelf under the chair” or a “find a blue card with the word___ on it”.)

This is a good partner game for kids.  They take turns reading the clues to each other.

5. Metronome

Use a metronome or a free online metronome to set a beat for tapping, clapping or marching activities.

Start with 60 beats per minute and gradually increase the speed as kids get comfortable with the activities. [60-80 beats per minute are more calming and organizing; faster beats alert the nervous system] 

For example, tap left foot to the beat, right foot to the beat, alternate tapping the feet.  Follow various directions 2 taps left foot, 3 taps right foot, etc.

Add other body parts and movements such as clapping hands or patting the tops of the thighs.  Or, students can transition to the beat like a robot!

6. Learn Song Lyrics, a Poem or a Chant

This is a powerful way to improve auditory processing and listening skills.  Chants, mantras, and rhythmical songs are fun for kids and great for learning.

(Consider Amazon’s Prime Music to have access to millions of songs.)

7. Telephone Game

Practice vocabulary definitions or new facts through the telephone game.  Use a sentence or phrase to introduce a new topic.

8. Following Directions Games

Use games that incorporate left-right directions such as Twister (or Twister Ultimate). Try a dance like the Hokey Pokey!  Play games that incorporate directions such as Cranium’s Hullabaloo.

Add multiple step directions to your own versions of Simon Says or try games like Mother May I?

9. Classical Music

Play classical music at various times during the day.  It reduces stress, promotes relaxation and stimulates brain function.  Studies show that it enhances memory and stimulates emotional intelligence! 

It can also help kids focus when there’s distracting background noise at home or school.

10. Story Telling to Improve Reading Skills

Takes turns telling short stories. Tell a story together, each person gets a specific amount of time before it passes on to the next person.

BONUS Listening Game: “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”

This is a fun game for kids! And you’d be surprised at how tricky it can be for some… kids are so used to VISUALLY watching and imitating. It really forces them to listen carefully and not be distracted by what they see.

During this game, you give them an instruction – but you do something different.

For example, you might say “Pat your head” as you are patting your shoulders. Or, you say “jump up and down three times” as you stomp your feet.

You can vary the complexity of the directions based on your grade level (add left and right.)

Free PDF Printable: Activities to Enhance Reading Skills

Auditory activities are great for helping kids listen and follow directions and they also help improve reading skills.  

If you’d like a free printable to help with skills needed for reading, grab it here:  FREE Printable: Activities to Enhance Reading Skills or click the button below.  

The activities on the printable include auditory games, as well as visual, balance and crossing midline activities.

The visual activities listed improve visual perception, position in space and visual tracking.  

Balance activities are important for muscle development.  They improve postural muscles and eye muscle control needed for reading. 

The crossing midline activities help the two sides of the brain communicate better. And, they help the eyes track across midline.  (Definitely needed for reading!)

All of these activities help with brain development, learning, and the building blocks for reading. 

MORE Fun Learning Activities for Kids Using OT Sensory Strategies

Click the four links in the paragraph above for visual and visual perceptual activities.  Balance and crossing midline activities are also effective sensory and sensorimotor activities that help with the learning process.  

The Taylor Trott Sensory Pyramid of Learning explains how the sensory systems create a strong foundation for kids’ learning, attending and behaving. 

Additional learning activities with OT strategies are listed below:

    School-Based OT

    Amy Hathaway MOT, OTR/L, CIMI-2 is a licensed and registered occupational therapist.  She is the founder of Develop Learn Grow. 

    Amy has 22 years of experience as a pediatric occupational therapist.   She enjoys collaborating with teachers, parents, therapists, administrators, and support staff in preschools & schools, as well as coaching and guiding parents of infants and toddlers in their homes.

    She is married and has three children.  Click to read Amy’s bio.  

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