When you’re a parent, you try your best to give your child or children the tools that will hopefully help them succeed. I like to think of these as figurative building blocks that you start to put together when your child is young. You hope what you’ve taught them prepares them for when they leave the nest. Because after all, you’re preparing them for independence.
One thing you can do to prepare your child for the world ahead is make sure your child is able to develop social skills that they’ll need in a number of different settings. Think about all of the social interactions you have on a regular basis. Teaching social skills is incredibly valuable. Building social skills helps your child communicate, relate to, and connect with people they’ll meet over their lifetime regardless of age.
Read on for a list of evidence-based social skills activities that I hope you find helpful.
15 Fun Activities to Teach Social Skills
Role-playing can help your child feel more prepared and more confident in social interactions, whether it’s with their teachers, friends, or any one else they interact with on the day-to-day. Once your child reaches the age where they’ll be going to preschool or kindergarten throughout the week, they’ll encounter many different situations.
You can also try this with your middle-schooler. Maybe they see a group of kids playing a soccer game or see kids doing craft projects and want to join in on the fun. Introducing yourself to new people can be daunting, so you can practice introductions and what to say in that moment.
Do you have a cabinet in your home filled with board games? Well, if you do and haven’t already, maybe it is time to clear off the dust. By playing a board game, children can learn how to wait their turn, how to be patient, and how to cope with losing. They will also gain new problem-solving skills, as well as other social skills like how to make conversation and how to interact in a game-playing setting.
Board games can be great for bonding and your child will be smiling and laughing until bedtime. Thankfully, there’s board games for every age and there’s unlimited choices. Maybe you have some childhood favorites of your own that you’ve been wanting to introduce to your child.
If you’ve ever played Candyland, you’re likely familiar with the heartbreak of pulling that gingerbread card and having to go back to the starting point. It’s even worse if you’re already at the Molasses Swamp. You can calmly say something about how you hope to pull a better card next time. This works for Candyland, but it can also be applied to many others. By modeling a calm response, you show your child an appropriate reaction to when something isn’t going their way, like having to start over or losing progress.
Revisiting that cabinet with stacks of board games, there might be some card games that are suitable for children as well. There are hundreds, likely thousands, of card games out there that you can play with your child. Go Fish, a game you’ve most definitely have heard about, is one card game you can play with your child.
Card games can teach your child how to follow rules or directions, communicate with others, and control impulses. These card games can also teach kids cognitive skills, motor skills, strategic thinking, and more. These other skills are just as valuable as social skills.
By playing emotion charades, you can teach your child how to identify the range of emotions people feel. Your child can learn how to respond with care and kindness and what it means to have empathy. It’s also important for your child to understand how they might feel in certain situations, in addition to understanding how others might feel.
When doing this activity, your child will act out different emotions, and then you can help your child identify others’ emotions by giving them cues and talking to your child about body language.
If you’re unsure on how to do this activity, Youth First provides some instructions on how you can carry out this activity, but there are many other ways to do emotional charades as well.
We all need a little bit of adventure, whether it’s in your backyard or in a park that’s close by. Scavenger hunts are a fun activity, and it’s one you can do at any age.
To put together a scavenger hunt, hide some objects, define the search parameter, give your child and other participants a time limit, and provide some clues. By making a scavenger hunt a group activity, your child can learn how to play with others, communicate about putting together a plan or how they want to go about finding the items, and follow any instructions.
Solving a puzzle
Group work tends to be hard. Whether you’ve worked in a group during school or in a work environment, you’ve likely done this many times. One activity you can try is solving a puzzle. Maybe you do this with your middle-schooler.
By working in a group to solve a puzzle, your child can gain communication skills. Your child and other participants can figure out a plan and what part of the puzzle they’d like to tackle first. They can speak up if they have an idea, such as sorting the puzzle pieces out into colors or if it’s an edge piece of the puzzle. It’s valuable to teach your child how to work with others as it’s something that can come up often in a multitude of different settings.
If your child loves to spend time in the backyard kicking a ball around, you can think about signing them up for team athletics. Luckily, you can do this when your child is at a young age.
Your child or children learn about what makes a good winner or loser, or showing respect to everyone on the field, such as other players and the referee. They can also learn to encourage their teammates.
Sports can teach children how to work together towards a common goal, but also how to deal with situations where they don’t have their desired outcome.
A week of kindness
By choosing a kindness activity to complete each day of the week, you can instill acts of kindness in your child. In the past, I have written about teaching my own kids about empathy. It can take time and effort, but it is totally worth putting in the time.
Maybe on Monday, your child can compliment the first three people they run into that day. The next day, your child could also surprise a neighbor with some cookies or other sweet treats. Depending on the activities you and your child choose, this can be a great bonding experience.
You can take a couple of the ideas I have listed, but also come up with your own! Being kind to others can look like many different things, so do what works for you. The options are by no means limited.
Cooperative construction, or cooperative learning, can get those creative juices flowing, while also working on your child’s ability to communicate, negotiate, and coordinate. If you have a set of blocks laying around, you and your child can build something with one another, such as a tower or trying to build the structure they see in a picture you gave them.
A guessing game
This game asks for your child and other participants to describe different things. These things can be animals, objects, and anything you can think of. The person describing will choose something, and they’ll give out clues until someone is able to guess the answer.
Keeping a journal
By giving your child a journal, they can write about their day and write down any feelings they felt. Since writing in a journal can be very personal, you could ask if there is anything they’d like to share with you if your child likes keeping one on hand. This way your child learns to reflect on their feelings and might get to a point where they feel like sharing.
Rather than just a blank notebook, there are many different guided journals that consist of different activities. Journals also promote social emotional learning, which is an important part of education and development.
Passing around a talking stick
For practicing conversation skills, think about passing around a talking stick between you and your child or whoever else is participating. While one person is talking, the others need to wait until the talking stick is passed to them. You can talk about the importance of eye contact and looking at someone while they are talking as well.
This idea can also be a fun craft activity to do. All you need to do is get a stick, and then pull out some art supplies. This is a way to get them away from their screens, and to a place where they can unleash some of their creativity.
Storytelling is something we do all the time. If you met up with a friend recently, you probably told them about something that happened earlier that day or during the past week. Your child also might share with you something about what happened in school. We do it without thinking about it.
When doing this activity with your child, it involves listening, following directions, waiting for your turn to speak and more. You can choose just about any topic, such as an event that happened or an idea you or your child might have had.
Whole body listening
Active listening is an immensely valuable skill to have. It’s something you need on a day-to-day basis. There’s a number of different activities you can try such as playing Simon Says or Musical Statues where your child and others can dance to music and then stop when the music cuts off.
Tell me your thoughts on activities you enjoy with your children below.
I hope that you find this blog post to be helpful and that you try out some of these fun social skills activities. Tell me about any other activities you have found to be enjoyable for your child. There are so many activities that lend themselves well to practicing social skills and one isn’t exactly better than others, but each a building block for your child’s greater overall social skills.