Auditory Processing Activities

Here, we are talking all about auditory processing activities that are part of sensory play for kids. Auditory processing activities are a tool for many auditory processing disorders or issues. From poor listening skills to difficulty with language comprehension, or auditory sensory sensitivities, activities that challenge the sense of hearing can be helpful for many children.  

Try these auditory processing activities to help kids of many different skill levels.   

Auditory processing activities for kids

The Auditory Processing System

This information on the auditory processing system is taken from my book, The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook. For tips, tools, and strategies to integrate sensory processing information (in the right way) into daily life tasks like play, self-care, school, learning, and everyday functional tasks, check out The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook.

Receptors for the auditory system are located in the inner ear and are responsible for receiving vibration from sound waves and changing them to fluid movement energy.  Information is projected to the central nervous system and transmits sound frequency as well as timing and intensity of sound input.  The auditory system is integrated with somatosensory input in order to play a role in controlling orientation of the eyes, head, and body to sound. 

Treatment activities may provide alerting input that help the child become more aware of their sensory needs through their mouth.  They are activities that calm and add focus so that children can better attend to their environment and sensory input or needs is less of a primary focus.

Like all of the sensory systems, the auditory system can over-respond or under-respond to input from the world around us. When this occurs, we may notice that children respond in different or unusual ways than what we might expect.

Typically, dysfunction within the sensory systems presents in many different ways.  A child with sensory difficulties may be over-responsive or under-responsive to sensory input. 

They may operate on an unusually high or unusually low level of activity.  They may fatigue easily during activity or may constantly be in motion. They might over-react to input from the environment.

Children may also fluctuate between responsiveness, activity levels, and energy levels. Additionally, children with sensory processing dysfunctions typically present with other delays. Development of motor coordination, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social-emotional skills, behaviors, executive functioning skills, language, and learning are all at risk as a result of impaired sensory processing. This can be especially common for auditory processing issues.

Sensitivities to sounds may result in communication challenges, social and emotional learning, phonologic awareness delays, literacy delays, and trouble with reading or learning.

Hyper-responsiveness occurs when sensory input is “too loud” or “too much” for the individual. They over-react to auditory input.

Hyper-responsiveness of the auditory sense

Over-responsiveness in the auditory system may present in a child as over-responsiveness or overreaction to auditory sensation. This may look like sensitive ears or sensitivities to auditory input. Other examples of hypersensitivity may include:

  • Startles easily to unexpected sounds
  • Dislikes noisy places
  • Overly sensitive to speakers on radios
  • Fearful of smoke detectors, overhead speakers
  • Shushes others or asks others to stop talking
  • Holds hands over ears
  • Sensitive to certain sounds such as lawnmowers or the hum of the refrigerator
  • Easily distracted by sounds and background noise
  • Hums to block out background noise

Adaptations/Accommodations to address hyper-responsiveness of the auditory sense:

  • Calming auditory input: fill a plastic bottle with rice to use as a sensory sound tool
  • Use foam earplugs
  • Use earbuds or headphones to dull sounds, especially in noisy environments
  • Soft/calm music
  • Add soft material like felt or cut tennis balls to the bottoms of desk chairs and desks
  • Allow student to travel hallways minutes before other students to reduce noise

Hypo-responsiveness of the auditory sense

Hypo-responsiveness is an under-responsiveness to auditory input. Children that are under-responsive may not notice sounds. They might create sounds of their own, like humming, or prefer loud sounds. They may not notice that they yell or speak loudly.

Other examples of under responsiveness to the auditory sense may look like:

  • Seems to be unaware of sounds
  • Holds radio speakers up against ears
  • Doesn’t respond to alarms
  • Makes silly sounds at inappropriate times or frequently
  • Mimics sounds of others
  • Talks to self
  • Difficulty locating sounds, especially when in a noisy environment
  • Hums in order to hear the sound of humming

Adaptations/Accommodations to address hypo-responsiveness of the auditory sense:

  • Utilize visual schedules or visual prompts
  • Utilize a physical prompt or “secret code” to indicate a transition
  • Slow down speech when giving directions
  • Seat child away from hallways, windows, or busy areas
  • Trial a whisper phone in the classroom
  • Teach child to tap out instructions or repeat instructions

Auditory Processing Activities

Studies support the use of active participation in multi-sensory activities for at least 90 minutes per week to improve occupational performance and autism symptoms and behaviors (Fazlioglu & Baran, 2008; Thompson, 2011; Woo & Leon, 2013; Wuang, Wang, Huang, & Su 2010). 

Children who have a toolbox of sensory activities available to them for daily use may benefit from prescribed sensory activities. A sensory-based strategy guide can help.

You may have heard about using a sensory diet to address sensory challenges. But do you know where to start or even what a sensory diet is?

Activities that address several different areas are helpful for kids APD:

  • Auditory discrimination
  • Auditory sequencing
  • Auditory memory
  • Auditory figure-ground discrimination

  Read more about the challenges of auditory processing disorders.

Fall Leaf themed auditory processing activities for sensory needs in kids.Auditory processing dominoes made with bells are perfect for a color matching activity, and can be graded to meet the auditory needs of all ages.Auditory processing sensory ideas for backyard summer sensory play, perfect for sensory diet ideas for kids.Baby Sensory bottles using recycled spice jars
DIY rhythm sticks and activities for preschool aged kids
Auditory processing activities for kids

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to