The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education

Listening Boxes

Barb Hay, SOECIC

Listening Boxes evolved from Listening Bags, an idea used by various CI Centres and Education teams to provide parents with structured activities to assist the development of listening skills. The boxes are used as part of the rehabilitation programme for children who have had cochlear implants.

What are Listening Boxes?

Listening Boxes are sturdy, stackable, portable, easily recognisable and contain specific activities, targeting a range of particular listening skills. The contents always include toys to reinforce a particular skill, usually the words to a song or rhyme for parents to sing with their children (remembering the importance of developing pitch, rhythm and intonation) and a book for shared reading. The contents are listed on laminated sheets which provide advice and step by step instructions on how to use the items effectively.

Why were they developed?

Listening Boxes were developed to build up children's listening skills and to give parents specific ideas on how to support their child's listening development. Each box provides ideas on how children can experience sound in a meaningful and fun way. Before parents leave the Centre the ideas contained in the box are explained, along with suggestions of how the box could be used at home. An underlying aim is to encourage parents and families to spend regular 'quality' time at home reinforcing the skills between visits from centre staff.

When are Listening Boxes used?

Listening Boxes are particularly useful at early stages of development, to demonstrate to parents how to work with their child on listening skills. Each Box has a specific reference to a listening stage:
  • auditory detection (knowing there is sound present);
  • auditory discrimination (knowing that there are different types of sound);
  • identification (knowing what the sound represents eg doorbell);
  • comprehension (knowing that words/sounds have meaning and acting on that).
The activities are used to reinforce listening skills on a 1:1 basis whilst integrating meaningful concepts in a fun way.

How are they used?

A simple step-by-step laminated instruction sheet is included on how to use the Listening Boxes. The specific purpose and goals for the box are on the front. From the front of the box, parents and professionals can quickly and easily see the specific listening intent of each box.

A box developed to encourage auditory detection may simply have 'responding to sound' and 'turn taking' as its specific goals. The box may only contain a drum and a ball with instructions on how these may be used to develop the skill of auditory detection. The advice may include;

  1. banging the drum while encouraging the child to 'listen';
  2. soft and loud banging;
  3. marching to the beat of the drum;
  4. playing the 'Wake Up' game - taking turns to be asleep and waking up when the drum is banged;
  5. throwing the ball when they hear the beat of the drum;
  6. playing a simple hide and seek game with the drum.

A more complex Listening Box may involve developing the skills of auditory identification or comprehension, including activities in, for example, auditory selection, turn-taking, auditory memory, singing, role play and language building.

A 'loan card' system ensures a record of who has borrowed the box and the date of return.


It is fun collecting items and making Listening Boxes and the production reaps rewards and good feedback from both the children and their parents. The boxes are widely used and they are an invaluable tool in assisting parents in the development of their children's listening.

using a listening box at home

Parent Comments on Listening Boxes:

  • 'Very inspirational.'
  • 'Interesting with lots of variety.'
  • 'Inspires parents to have confidence to work with their child'.
  • 'I like the suggested activity and how it's broken down.'
  • 'Captures my child's attention.'

Checked January 2013

Download Article and examples of instruction sheets