Playing Whac-a-Mole to practice early auditory processing

Whac-A-Mole is a fun listening game for juveniles of all ages. It has the potential to get a bit chaotic, but if used prudently it can be beneficial for developing auditory processing, executive function, and attention.

Manufacturer: Hasbro

Suggested Retail Price: $31.98 US

Availability: discount stores, toy and game stores, online

Number of players: 2-4

Recommended age: 4 and up

Description: Generally, I try to stick to speech therapy games and toys that do not require batteries, and don't involve violence. This game is one of the exceptions I make to both of these principles. The board consists of four moles sticking their heads up out of their holes. Each player chooses a mole, which makes taunting noises at its player during the game. Whacking your mole with a plastic mallet immediately after it taunts you earns you ten points; waiting too long, or whacking your mole when it hasn't just taunted you, results in a ten point deduction. The first player to reach 100 points is the winner.

To reduce the "chaos factor" in the therapy room, I've ditched the plastic mallets and I have students use their fingertips to push down on their moles instead--"Push-a-Mole," if you will.

The game has an "easy" setting and a "hard" setting. On "easy," a light under each mole's hard hat lights up when the mole taunts its player, so that the player gets both visual and auditory cues. On "hard," the light does not come on, so each player has to listen for his or her mole's unique sound. I usually begin on "easy" to let the child get the feel of the game, then switch to "hard."


Whac-a-Mole can be useful tool for training early auditory processing and auditory discrimination skills, as well as attention and executive function. On the "hard" setting, players are rewarded for listening for their own moles' sounds and ignoring the rest. This requires players to maintain attention and act quickly and accurately in response to the sounds they hear.

A variation I have used when working with a single child, rather than a group, is to have the child play two moles at once, one with the left hand and one with the right. This way, rather than responding to one sound and ignoring the other, the child has to respond correctly to all sounds.

Please keep in mind: this game was not designed for improving auditory processing, executive function, attention, or other cognitive skills. The manufacturer makes no claims beyond that it is fun, and it certainly lives up to this claim. I only use "Push-a-Mole" as a small part of a well-designed intervention program, generally in the last few minutes of the session as a reinforcer after the child has worked hard at the other tasks I've planned.

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