Listening skills game one-to-one

Shelley and Anna playing the Scarf game

This easy listening skills game is great fun for teaching vocabulary one-to-one. (If you have groups rather than 1:1, click here for the group version.) All you need is some space and a scarf. If you do not have a scarf, try a rope, a piece of string, an old rag, or even an item of clothing, but not your best jumper!

How to play

I start by prancing around the garden, pulling on the scarf quite hard, and spinning Anna, so she has to run to keep up and hold on. (You can see this on the video link lower down.) She loves it and shrieks with delight. Meanwhile, I call out different animal names, which I have already taught with Jump the Line and other easy listening games. Then, Anna holds on to the scarf and cannot let go until she hears the key phrase, “I’m hungry!” Only when Anna hears this can she let go of the scarf and run to safety, touching the tree before I catch her. 

When I call out “I’m hungry,” I chase Anna and just fail to catch her, (when of course, I could easily have caught her) – but I JUST miss – that makes it exciting for her, and she screams in delight.

You can play this listening skills game indoors too, but it’s best with some space.


Use any words or phrases for this game. Choose any sentence or word as your key phrase.

Enjoy this game, but check out the tips below first to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Listening skills game tips

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Start gently saying the vocabulary calmly. Once your pupil has the hang of the game, you may gradually speed up your movements and the words you say.

To keep the child on edge and in suspense and make the game more exciting, try to trick the pupil into letting go of the scarf by suddenly moving as if to catch them while suddenly saying a word. That will make them jump, even though you did not say, “I’m hungry.”  However, avoid that technique with 3-year-olds or shy kids. Instead, go gently. Adapt how you play to the age and the temperament of your child.

In this listening skills game, the pupil needs to recognize the words before they play. Therefore, it’s not a game you would use to introduce new words. However, it’s excellent for revision and as part of the learning process once you have played a couple of introductory listening games, like this one.

I strongly recommend that you never catch your pupil – at least not until they are at least eight years old. Younger children cannot handle losing, and they usually see it as a terrible sign of failure. Furthermore, it can cause floods of tears and put them off English! So remember, they are sensitive little beings who have not been on earth for long, so be gentle.


You may also use this listening skills game with  siblings. Either use two scarves or have children share one scarf while you say the words.  That said, take care that an older, stronger child does not  knock over their sibling in the excitement of the game. If this could be a risk, let the children take turns holding the scarf.


On this link, how to teach a child to speak English, you can watch this game in action right at the start of the video.


Get help teaching vocabulary one to one

If you like this game, here are more!

Gain the knowledge to put your child on a bilingual journey. Teach Your Child English is for teaching in person, and ESL Online Games is for teaching 1-2-1 online.

Included! Three videos over 2 hours of demonstration lessons. In instant download from me on this link, or paperback from most Amazon websites, or order from your local bookstore. ISBN-13: 978-1479354795.

Get more listening skills games for 1-2-1

Story kits with lesson plans, songs, role-plays, skits, and flashcards for children are also available – email me for info! I’m here to help you make your one-to-one teaching a success.

Kind regards

Shelley Ann Vernon, Teaching English Games

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