Listening Activities

Communication is one of the most powerful tools a person has. But people communicate in different ways. Some people are great speakers, yet they are not good listeners. But to be able to communicate correctly, you have to be able to listen as well as speak. The following listening activities can help improve your listening skills.

Why Should You Do Listening Activities?

Being a good listener is a vital part of life. If you don’t know how to follow directions, you’re not going to learn how to do a lot of important stuff – like driving, cooking, or even how to safely cross the road. You listen to learn. It starts when you’re a baby and continues to the day you die.

Engaging in listening activities can make you a better listener. When you know how to listen attentively, you open up a new world of possibilities. You learn how to understand people in a new way. Not just by what they say but also by what they don’t say .

If you don’t pay attention while you’re listening to someone, you can end up misinterpreting their meanings – which can lead to problems. Everyone has different perceptions, so four different people might all have varying interpretations of a phrase or scenario.

It’s crucial to remember this factor when communicating with people – whether it’s your romantic partner, your child, or your coworkers. Being a good listener has benefits for every area of your life. The listening activities listed below are broken down into categories for easier browsing. Get creative and put your spin on these fun tasks so that you can become the best listener.

Listening Activities for Work

Having excellent communication in the workplace is vital for efficiency and cooperation. When the team knows how to work well together without micromanaging, tasks get done quicker and with fewer revisions. When there’s less drama in the workplace, employees are happier.

There are plenty of ways you can get your employees to learn how to communicate better. Some people prefer to use corporate retreats to allow employees to learn how to work together. During these getaways, members work together to solve various tasks designed to promote teamwork.

Other companies prefer to host mandatory classes or seminars designed to teach coworkers how to work together and how to communicate appropriately. During these events, a mediator will lead the group through a series of activities that teach everyone how everyone has different listening styles and perceptions. Try some of these learning activities to boost listening skills in a work environment.

Say One Thing, Do Another

We’ve all tried the fun trick of rubbing your head while patting your belly. Some people can do it; others struggle and often do it backward. Psychology has told us this is because people can’t multitask as well as we think. For this task, a mediator, usually someone who isn’t a part of the company, will instruct the group to listen carefully to the instructions – “Do exactly as I say.”

Then, the mediator will tell the group to do something. Maybe everyone has to touch their nose. However, the mediator won’t do the task they’ve instructed the group to do. Instead, they might touch their lips. The people who listened to the instructions will touch their nose instead of their mouths. Those who weren’t listening attentively might do as you do instead of as you say.

Once the task is over, point out the instructions and those that didn’t do the job correctly. Do this a few different times to see who can keep up with the game. Speed it up to make it fun and challenging.

Telephone Game

For this task, organize the group into a single file line, standing shoulder to shoulder. Then give the person on one end a sentence. Then, they have to whisper this sentence to the person next to them. They are not allowed to repeat it. Then that person passes what they thought they heard to the next member.

The last person in line has to repeat what they heard. See how close the team got to the original sentence. Break it down and see who heard what. This can often lead to hilarious twists. And it shows how perception can affect the words each member chooses to remember and substitute when they’re unsure.

List It

In this task, the mediator should come up with a list of 15 to 20 words. These words should be based on a theme. We’ll use the example family. On this list, include terms associated with family like:

  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Son
  • Daughter
  • House

Include all the related words but omit the word family (or include the name family but omit love or home, et cetera). The mediator repeats this list to the group, and they have one minute to write down all the words they can remember. In psychology studies, it has been discovered that the mind has a limit to how much information it can retain at one time.

To function correctly, most short term memory limits the number of items you can remember to seven, and will only retain information for 15 to 30 seconds. If you’re trying to remember nine things from five minutes ago, you might have problems. Your mind then begins to grasp at possible answers that they assume were included, simply because of the other words.

One word should be chosen to repeat at least three times in the list (so if you’re going with 18 words, you’ll only need 15). 60% of people usually remember the first word. Whereas 75% often get the last name. And 80% of people will remember the repeated word. And 20% might write down the “theme” word, which was never actually spoken – family.

The Gorilla Test

I learned about this neat little test when I was in college for my psychology degree. It’s quite interesting. Before I explain how the test works, let me ask you this. Have you ever gotten angry at someone for seeming distracted while you’re talking to them? Of course, you have – you’re human.

But how would you feel if I explained that it wasn’t their fault? Studies have shown that humans suffer from a condition called inattentional blindness, which means when you’re focused on something, you can miss important stuff that goes on around you.

Click this link and watch the video. While you’re watching, count how many times the people in the white shirts pass the ball back and forth. Stop reading until you’ve finished the video then come back. It’s essential to follow this step if you want to see this demonstration in action.


Welcome Back

Welcome back, my friends. So how many balls did you count? For those of you who didn’t bother to watch the video or to count, there were 15 passes. So what is this video proving? Well, it turns out that most people are so busy trying to keep up with the number of times the white-shirted people pass the ball that they miss entirely the person in the gorilla suit walking through the middle of the group.

Were you one of the people who missed it? If so, don’t feel bad. Most people have trouble noticing stuff going on around them when they’re so busy trying to do something else. More recent studies have even proven that eyewitness testimonies of criminal activity can be incorrect because the witness missed other details going on around them because they were focused on the current danger.

If you’ve been told that you have a problem with listening, it could be that you aren’t giving the conversation your full attention. It’s great that you can become hyper-focused on your tasks, but not if it means being a poor listener. Instead, put away anything that can distract you when you’re having a conversation. You’d be surprised at how much your listening skill improves when you pay attention.

Here Are a Few Fun Perception Tasks

Perception is a funny thing. The same thing can mean different things for different people. Take the phrase “in a bit.” If you ask my children, this means 10 seconds after they ask a question. For me, when I say “in a bit,” it could mean anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. I’ve even been known to forget about it altogether.

You need to be aware of other people’s differences to be an effective communicator. If you are told by a coworker that they will do something, later on, you could be left twiddling your thumbs, wondering when later on might be. You might expect it to mean a few hours when the other person says a few days.

When communicating with someone, be sure that you use precise phrasings so that there is no room for misunderstanding. When you are listening, be sure you pay attention to the contextual clues, as well as the speaker’s behavior. These help you learn the speaker’s habits so that you won’t need clarification on their definition of loose terms like “later on” or “in a bit.”

My Wife and My Mother in Law

Present the group with a viewing of this image, called “My wife and my mother in law.” This illusion is both an older woman and a young female. Not everyone will see the same thing. It depends on your perception. Some scientists say tests like these can reveal necessary information about a person. Try to describe the image to each other so that you each see both photos.

Hint – Look at the woman’s necklace as the mouth of an older woman. You start to notice the long eyelashes, pointy nose, and fur jacket. Think of what a wicked witch looks like, and it’s easier to visualize the older woman. The younger woman is in profile, so all you see is the side of her face.

Rubin’s Vase

How about this image? Do you see a vase? Or do you see the side of two faces looking at each other? This fun picture shows us how your brain can jump to conclusions about something when it’s unable to determine what it’s dealing with. Some of you might see the vase because it’s the empty gap in the color. Others might see the two faces because they focus on the shade instead of the white.

Your brain will choose to focus on one image or the other, which is why you’ll have to look a bit harder to see the other half. This shows that when presented with multiple stimuli (including contrasting colors), we choose to focus on one more than the other. The same goes when you’re listening to someone talk while also doing another activity.

It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

A fascinating image sparked a world-wide debate on social media when one user posted a picture of this dress. People can’t seem to agree on what color this fashion piece is – white and gold or blue and black. How you interpret the lighting will determine which colors you think the dress is.

You may be shocked to know that from another angle, this dress is dark blue and black. However, from the first image, it can appear to be gold and white. I could have sworn on my life when I first saw this picture that there was no way the dress could be black and blue. But, I stand corrected.

Get the Group Interacting

One of the best ways to get better at listening is to practice. Using games can make it more fun for people to want to participate actively. If you’re forced to go to a mandated seminar where you have to listen to one person talk for hours, you can get bored and tune them out. Make sure this doesn’t happen by keeping everyone busy with hands-on activities like these.

Five Question Bet

For this activity, pair the group off into twos. Have one person place something up for a bet (a piece of candy, a pen, a quarter – nothing significant). Then they have to ask their partner a question. Based off their partner’s response, they have to come up with four new questions. If they ask a closed-ended question – one that can be answered yes or no – they lose their bet.

Don’t ask your partner, are you married? Do you have children? Do you have a brother? These are closed-ended questions.

Unzip It

This game can be played at home with children, your romantic partner, or even just your friends, as well as at work. For this activity, you’ll need a deck of prompt cards. You can find these online based on multiple topics, or you can make your own. Some helpful ideas: get to know you cards, shared interests, or workplace dynamics.

To play this game, each person pulls a card out of the zippered pouch and reads the prompt aloud to their partner, or everyone if you have a small group. This game encourages socialization and strengthens listening skills.

Difficult Customer Role Play

Most employees find themselves dealing with customers or clients daily. And unfortunately, there will be times when these people are less than pleasant. Knowing how to deal with these difficult people is an essential tool that employees need to know. Divide the group up into partners and let them take turns playing a problematic customer.

Everyone might react differently, and being able to experience these interactions can help you learn how to do things a bit differently in your work. Listen to the way that others respond when you’re playing the customer role.

Follow the Instructions

You can’t make it far in life without knowing how to follow instructions. From the time we’re old enough to comprehend words and behaviors, we’re learning how to do things. You might get directions verbally, written down, or even just by watching other people.

If you’re a visual learner, you might have issues following spoken directions. That’s why it’s vital to improve your listening skills so you can get better. These fun activities can help you improve your listening, but they can also show you how each person might interpret the same instructions in different ways.

Fold the Paper

For this exercise, give everyone a piece of paper. The mediator then starts giving instructions for everyone to follow. The first direction for this exercise should always be to close your eyes and keep them closed until you’re finished. The mediator then gives ten or more steps that everyone must follow.


  • Fold the paper in half
  • Fold the paper in half again
  • Place right upper corner to the bottom left corner
  • Tear a hole at the bottom right
  • Fold again

Once the mediator has finished giving instructions, have everyone open their paper and show it around. Notice that everyone interpreted the guidelines differently. There will be different size tears and in various places on each paper.

Draw What You Hear

Divide the group into pairs and have them sit back to back. One person will have some paper and a pen or pencil. The other person will have an abstract drawing. The second person should describe the picture while the first person tries to draw what they hear. Set a timer for two minutes.

For two minutes, the drawer is not allowed to speak. Then when the timer goes off, they have one minute to ask questions so that they can get clarification on any confusing instructions. Compare the two images. Ask everyone why they think the photos didn’t match?

Dream Vacation

For this exercise, pair people into couples. One person will be the speaker, and one will be the listener. The speaker will spend three minutes talking about their dream vacation – however, they are not allowed to name a location. The other person has to spend the whole time listening, and using non-verbal cues to show they are paying attention (nodding, smiling). They are not allowed to talk.

When the time is up, the listener summarizes the speaker’s story and tries to guess where the vacation would be. They deliver their information in the form of a sales pitch, highlighting the speaker’s key points about the holiday.

Listening Activities For Kids

Ensuring that your children know how to listen is essential for your sanity. Raising children is stressful enough without having to deal with kids that run wild without self-control. As adults, it’s important to help teach your children how to listen correctly.

I have four children, and twenty years of experience raising kids, and most days, I still feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. I think that applies to all parents. But something I have learned is that my children listen better when it becomes a game. If there are rewards offered at the end of the game, they’re even more eager to participate.

Encourage your child to learn how to follow instructions with these fun games. You probably remember these from your childhood, so you shouldn’t need much guidance. But if you do, no worries. We’re happy to explain.

Simon Says

Simon Says is a classic childhood game that can be played by adults. It’s a simple game to follow the instructions carefully. One wrong move and you could end up back at the starting line. To play this game, line children up single file, shoulder to shoulder. An adult starts as Simon and gives instructions. For some tasks, you’ll say, “Simon Says (touch your nose). If the player follows the directions, they get to take a step forward. If they don’t, they have to stay in place.

On other rounds, you’ll simply say “turn in a circle.” Some players might do this. If they do, they have to take a step back. They are not following directions because they can only move when they hear “Simon Says.” Whoever gets to the front first gets to be Simon for the next round.

Draw a Picture

For this task, an adult tells the kids a short story and then have them draw a picture of one of their favorite scenes. You may give them specific instructions like they have to include the color blue, or they have to draw a picture of a scene that includes an animal. You can make up your own story or use one the kids are already familiar with.

Make it more fun by giving them a list of items they have to include in their drawings that comes from the story. If they exclude parts of the list or draw a picture of the wrong scene, they don’t get a reward and have to start over. Stickers or small pieces of candy work excellent as motivators.

Scavenger Hunts

Y’all, I won’t even lie. I recommend scavenger hunts for just about everything. It’s one of the easiest and funniest activities to play and can be tailored to fit any situation. For this activity, you need is come up with a list of sounds your kid has to find. This is a great game to play outside.

Use a barking dog, a bird chirping, a car horn, sirens. Come up with any kind of sounds that you usually hear outside.

An alternative method is to make them find different objects that you describe verbally. Maybe they have to find a brown leaf, a flat rock, and a stick. Change it to work inside, too – find a brush, a piece of paper, and an orange crayon.

The Clean Up Game

I learned early in motherhood that if you don’t teach your children to clean up after themselves early on, you’ll spend years fighting them to learn these habits later on. My six-year-old is horrible at something as simple as putting her dirty clothes in the hamper. My nine year old knows how to wash his clothes. The older one learned this fun game when he was little. My youngest one would never play it.

For this game, you instruct your child that you’re going to play a game to clean up their toys. There are multiple levels to get through (depending on how much of a mess there is). And at the end, you offer a reward. I love using cookies or ice cream, but you can certainly use a trip to the park or extra technology time as motivators. Find what works for your child.

For the first level, pick a color and a number, based on the mess you’re trying to get cleaned. For example, pick up four green items. Make it challenging by giving them a time limit – ten seconds – for extra points (these can be traded in for an additional reward or be used as a skip – they don’t have to pick up one toy).

Continue the levels until everything has been picked up or all the points have been spent. If you’re playing with multiple kids, make it a race to see who can pick up the most toys first. Not only will you be teaching your child how to listen and follow directions, but they’re also learning how to count and learn their colors too. Why not throw in some shapes to make it a better learning experience?

Listening Activities Improve Your Life

As we’ve demonstrated, it’s crucial to have strong listening skills. Knowing how to follow directions is a skill you’ll use for your whole life. Increase your ability to be a good listener by following these fun activities at work, in your relationships, and with your children. You’ll be amazed at how much your life improves when you learn how to listen attentively.

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