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Taking Action: Active Listening

Family games and activities that help sharpen listening skills:

Series of Sound

Using everyday items, you can incorporate hidden sounds into a family game. Challenge family members to listen for, draw, and repeat a series of common sounds. It’s amazing how much everyone tunes out the sounds around them.


  • Collect everyday objects such as a stapler, book, paper, kitchen tools or toys and place in a plastic bin or cardboard box.
  • Be sure to have a variety of items on hand to make noise with. Take turns making organizing a set number of these. For example, a series might include banging a book on the desk, bouncing a small ball, stomping your foot, clapping your hands, stapling papers, whistling, clicking keyboard keys, or shaking a bag of Lego blocks.


  1. After dinner, have everyone at the table listen for sounds made only by the designated “sound engineer.”
  2. Every time a new sound is made, everyone should draw a picture of the item that made the sound.
  3. After all the sounds are made, share everyone’s lists, pass around the items drawn and recreate the series of sounds in order. Celebrate everyone’s listening success and laugh about the sounds no one got.

The Last Word

Multi-tasking is an essential element of effective listening. Similar to a common improvisation activity, this game challenges students to listen to classmates while also preparing a relevant statement in their head. Small or large groups can easily play ‘The Last Word.’

  1. Choose a topic such as in the jungle, prehistoric life, an episode of a TV show, or a new pop song.
  2. Select an order by handing out numbers or base your order on the seating arrangements.
  3. The first player must walk to the front of the room and say one sentence that relates to the chosen topic.
  4. The next player must immediately walk to the front of the room and say one sentence that starts with the last word said by the player immediately before them.
  5. Play continues until all students have had a turn. If a student is unable to come up with an appropriate sentence within ten seconds, he is out of the game.
  6. Game play continues in this fashion until there is only one person left and he is the winner.

Story Builder

Instead of playing 20 Questions on your next car trip. start a story where one person starts a story with a single sentence. Each person adds a new sentence, but only after repeating all of the previous sentences.

If you have a preschooler, check out this list of activities that enhance the development of listening skills:

Try using these tips to help you get the best out of a conversation with your family and will build bridges to better communication:

  1. Set up some one on one time with each on one your children, whether they are helping you make dinner, set the table etc.
  2. Focus on them, ask them how their day was, ask open ended questions, make sure they know you are interested on what they have to say.
  3. Try not to interrupt if they are telling you a story about some behavior you don’t really agree with, try to ask questions that are not judgmental, for example; “why do you think you reacted that way?” “how did you feel after you had that reaction?” help them sort through the emotions and come up with their own conclusions.
  4. Put yourself in their position, try to listen and not over analyze what they are saying, remember they are talking to you, they want to trust you with their stories and feelings.
  5. Maybe you can share an experience where something similar has happened to you, and you can offer some comfort.
  6. Restate parts of the story, so your child knows you are listening and this also helps you better understand the context of the story.
  7. Repeat with each child, sometimes having these conversations as a group may have some family members feel left out and not heard.

Over time, using these techniques will help develop your family’s listening “muscle.” According to Stephen Walton from The Positive Parenting Centre website: “It’s critical to model your capacity to listen and understand. In turn, your child will instinctively develop active listening techniques of their own. They will become less argumentative and defensive, become more democratic and develop emotional maturity.” Be the best listener you can be to help promote good communication and understanding among your family. Active listening is not only about paying attention, it is about engaging in dialogue and one important pay-off is deeper and richer family relationships.