Sound Effects

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Sound effects create atmosphere breathing life into a multisensory story and providing the opportunity to elicit a response from the story explorer.

A quick search on the internet will provide you with access to a library of free audio clips and sound effects that can be played via your phone, iPad, Kindle or recorded and played back on a Dictaphone.There are also sound effect apps available.

If you have a budget then consider investing in a set of voice activated talking tiles. These are single button voice recorders that record and playback speech, music or sound effects. Their removable clear lid allows you to insert pictures, symbols, numbers, words or letters to match your recordings. They present the learner with opportunities to explore cause and effect, practice listening skills, record and listen to their voice, enhance the sound effects in a story.

​Listening Games

Our senses are constantly bombarded with stimuli in our busy lives. To an individual with special educational needs and disabilities this sensory overload can sometimes cause them to 'switch off'.

Listening games provide the opportunity to concentrate on the sense of hearing alone helping the individual to make more sense of their environment.

Other benefits of listening games are teaching sound discrimination, promoting the development of language, communication and comprehension skills and increasing attention span.

A quick search on the internet will give you access to limitless sound effects from helicopters to howler monkeys!

How to Play a Listening Game

1. Play the sound effect.

2. Can the listener communicate a request to listen to the sound again? (this could be through gaze, verbally, through sign language, Makaton, body sign)

3. Can the listener independently use a switch or a talking tile to activate the sound effect?

4. Can the listener imitate the sound using their voice?

5. Can the listener correctly identify the sound? (Give plenty of clues/present a selection of pictures for them to choose from)

You can theme the listening games e.g. 'A trip to the rainforest', 'transport', 'sounds around the home' etc.

Make your own sound effects.

Here are a few fun suggestions for making your own sound effects using low budget items found around the home and the classroom.

Glass smashing:

Place small metal objects (coins, screws, bolts) into a fabric bag then gently drop the bag into your open hand.


Canned mushy peas coming out of the tin make a wonderful squelching and sucking sound that occurs when the air on the outside of the can is sucked into the can to fill the airspace.

Bats flying:

Open and close an umbrella rapidly.


Break dried pasta, spaghetti, celery stalks.


Hold two shoes and tap the heels together, then tap the toes. Try using different kinds of shoes on different surfaces. For instance, walking in cat litter sounds like walking on gravel or snow.

Bird's wings flapping:

Wave a pair of rubber gloves up and down rapidly.

Breaking ice:

Slowly twist polystyrene until it squeaks and snaps.

Other Ways to Develop Listening Skills

Stimulate the listener’s hearing by presenting a range of familiar and unfamiliar sounds played at varying volumes and in different locations, e.g. behind the listener’s head so they can turn their head to locate the sound.

Note the listener's preferences to calming/alerting music, grinding, hushed, monotonous, musical, intermittent, rhythmic, mellow or percussive.

Play musical instruments such as recorders and harmonicas, blow whistles and party blowers. Sing, hum, whisper and use silly voices.

Listen to bubbles pop, the sounds of nature, the leaves rustling through the trees and the birds singing.

Listening to meditation teaches calmness, and develops understanding of thoughts, feelings and emotions helping to build confidence. A quick search online will open up a host of free meditations to listen to, suiting a range of audiences. Young children can visit secret tree houses, meet sleep sloths or go on magic carpet rides. Teenagers can explore the cosmos, meet their spirit animal or enjoy a relaxing body scans.

Listen! An A-Z Sensory Guide

A complete reference for Parents/Carers/Special Education and Early Years Professionals.