Teaching Kids to Be Good Listeners
I recently did a fun devotion time with some children at church, about the importance of listening, and I thought I’d pass it along.
We centered the discussion and activities around James 1:19:
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” We started by reading the scripture and discussing the question, Why is it important to listen before we speak?
Activity #1: The world is talking . . . are you listening?
I took the kids outside, and we all sat quietly for a few minutes, trying to pick out as many different sounds as possible. We listed all the different sounds we heard—several different kinds of birds, a siren, the wind rustling leaves, a car engine, a motorcycle, laughter, an air conditioner. We talked about how much we miss when we aren’t paying attention, or when we are talking so much that we don’t take the time to listen.
Activity #2: Ready, set, listen!
Next, the kids lined up, and I gave them a list of several specific things to do in order, things like: “Run to the fence, spin around in a circle, then run back and sit down at the picnic table with your hands folded,” or “Pat your stomach three times, touch your toes, and shout your favorite color.” We started with only two actions, and worked our way up to four. (With older kids you could go higher than this.) Then the kids took turns giving each other instructions. (They really enjoyed being in charge of the group!) Kevin and I have tried a similar activity at home with our kids, with a twist: We let each of our kids take turns receiving their own set of instructions. They each got a list of three to five specific actions to perform around the house (most of them were very silly things, like “Grab one of your sister’s T-shirts and wear it on your head”). It was more challenging this way, because they couldn’t follow the group—they had to listen and remember the instructions all by themselves. You can add another fun dimension to the activity by adding a time limit.
Activity #3: Feel the rhythm
Last, we sat at the table with our hands in front of us and created complex rhythms one step at a time, building patterns by slapping and thumping the table with our palms and fists. We might start by bumping our fists once on the table, then adding two hand slaps, then two claps, building the rhythm as long as we could until we were all laughing and confused.
After all the games, we revisited our theme scripture and talked again about reasons why it is important to listen, and to listen well. God gives us important instructions or lessons in the Bible that we need to take the time to hear. If we’re too busy, we might miss his instructions for how to live our lives. Sometimes our parents give us a list of instructions to do at home, to keep us safe or to keep the household running—if we don’t stop to listen, we will miss important details. Sometimes our friends have something important to say about how they are feeling, and we hurt their feelings if we don’t pay attention.
Listening is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most children (or most adults, for that matter!)—it must be taught. And as children mature, they need to learn not just to bite their tongue and wait their turn to speak, but to listen with emotional intelligence—to hear and acknowledge the feelings other people express, to learn to ask sensitive questions that draw out other people’s thoughts and feelings, to adjust their own responses in conversation based on how their words make people feel.
Devotions like this are fun and simple, but they make a big difference in teaching our kids to apply Scripture to their daily life. Times like these bring God’s word to life, making it fun and relevant, and show children all the ways that “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12).
For more devotion ideas, try these:
You might also enjoy Deck of Devos, a deck of cards with 52 ideas for fun family devotions.
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Elizabeth works from home as a writer, editor, diaper changer, baby snuggler, laundry slayer, not-so-gourmet chef, kid chauffeur, floor mopper, dog groomer, and tantrum tamer. She is always tired, but it's mostly the good kind.