Developing proper social skills is crucial in a young person’s life. The various capabilities that exist at the most basic level serve to shape and define us, affecting areas of our relationships, education, and career.
While many children will develop a lot of these social skills naturally, some may need a little help along the way. Even for those who seem to have a pretty good grasp on their social skills can benefit from learning more from their elders.
One of the best ways to instill social skills with children is by leading by example and using clear, thoughtful explanations. However, learning can truly be fun. Today we’re going to discuss how we can help our children grow socially through the use of social games.
Social Skills Games
More often than not, learning is a lot of work for kids. Young children attending school can quickly become overloaded, which is why school days are broken up with breaks for lunch, recess, and even sometimes naps.
By implementing games in your learning process, you can give kids a break while still making progress.
Here are some fun games you can use to make learning and developing social skills fun.
What seems like a silly game meant for recess or family night is actually a brilliant tool you can use for emphasizing the importance of social skills.
If you’ve never heard of the game, it basically goes like this: Divide your children up into two even teams. Every round, each side will select an artist; everyone will get a turn. Upon the start of the turn, the artists will draw a card with a word or phrase on it. Without saying the words out loud, the artists will draw their phrases at the same time.
Both teams have to watch their artist draw and try to guess what the drawing is. The first team to come up with the correct answer is the winner for the round, and they get a point.
At the end of the game, when everyone has had a chance to be an artist, the team with the most points is the winner.
Pictionary is a game of teamwork, which is an essential skill that children need to learn. It teaches them cooperation because they need to work alongside their teammates in order to be successful and win the game.
This cooperation promotes communication, listening, taking turns, and respect. It can also instill leadership traits in some kids and team-playing capabilities in others.
The Communication Board Game
The Social Communication Board Game is an excellent tool and resource for all types of guardians, but especially teachers. Available for digital download, you can print out all the pieces you need for this engaging and productive game.
The game involves a game board, a spinner, a die, and playing cards. The gameplay is simple: on a player’s turn, they roll the die and move the number of spaces that they rolled. The color of the space indicates which color card they need to draw.
All of the cards have specific instructions on them. There are four kinds of cards: Spin It and Say It, Decipher the Social Cues, What Should You Do?, and Think Before You Speak.
When a player gets a Spin It and Say It card, they have to spin the spinner. The arrow will point to a command that tells the player how they should say the phrase on the card. For example, the phrase might be, “I need a good grade on this.” The spinner might point to the command that says, “Say it in an angry tone.” Therefore, the player must read the phrase on the card in an angry tone.
Decipher the Social Cues cards display pictures of people. When a child gets this card, they must examine the picture and identify the facial expressions or body language used and what they think it might mean.
On the What Should You Do? Cards, children are presented with a specific scenario. After reading the scene out loud, the player discusses what they think they should do in the situation. This card teaches kids how to communicate appropriately when responding to someone.
Finally, the Think Before You Speak card describes a scenario where a child’s first reaction may be to say something mean or critical but instead forces them to think through what they wanted to say and express what they should honestly say out loud.
This game sets up more than 150 social situations to help children practice how they interact, speak, and listen with others. It also includes blank cards so that you can make up your own scenarios. It’s a great group learning exercise with fun colors and lots of support.
Charades is a classic game that is often played among groups of friends and family, so it may not even be a brand new game that you have to teach. However, Social Charades puts a fun learning twist on the original.
In social charades, a player acts out a situation or an action per usual, and the other players guess what it is. Once a player has correctly guessed the move, he or she must then talk about what social cues go with the activity or situation.
For example, if someone acts out being a teacher teaching a class, the player who guessed correctly might say that active listening is an essential social skill because you need to listen in order to learn.
If a player acts out a game of baseball, then the other player who guessed it right might say that baseball requires good cooperation and the ability to follow directions and take your turn.
Social charades are great because it encourages critical thinking about social skills and improves social awareness. Not only does the player who made the correct guess have to think about their answer, but the rest of the players listen and learn. If the player who guessed has trouble coming up with an answer, it can be opened up for group discussion.
This is a quick game that you can squeeze in during some free time in your day or if you have a few minutes remaining at the end of a class that is fun, interaction, and effective.
Yet another classic, Uno, is an easy and fun card game that many kids probably already know how to play. In fact, if your family is a big fan of this game, you can simply implement some small changes to transform it into a learning experience for your children.
Before you start your regular gameplay, pull out one of each of the colored cards. Take some time to talk about what kind of feelings each color might stand for. Blue can stand for feelings of sadness, boredom, or sickness, while green might look like happiness, calmness, or control. Red might feel like anger and frustration, while yellow can mean worried, nervous, or scared.
Place the cards back in the deck and go about your usual card gameplay. Now, every time a child plays a color card, have them use an emotion word that matches the emotions of the color that you discussed. They can also talk about a time that they felt that way or when they made someone else feel that way.
It can be helpful to write down what each color means on cards so that everyone can have them next to them to help them remember. Keep these cards with the deck, so you have them every time you play.
This game is helpful and vital because it promotes self-awareness and a deeper understanding of our emotions and the emotions of others. It also drives vocabulary development as children try to come up with different emotional descriptions each turn.
Some kids might not feel comfortable talking about their emotions, so playing this game teaches them that it’s okay to be a little vulnerable and that all of their feelings are normal.
Would You Rather?
Would You Rather can seem like a risky game, but you can make it fun and kid-friendly. It’s a great way to encourage laughter, social interaction, thoughtful question-asking, and listening skills.
Come up with a list of silly yet challenging would you rather questions. The sillier, the better – it will get the whole group laughing, which is the perfect way to loosen kids up and make them feel comfortable.
Ask questions like, would you rather have breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast? Would you rather have hands for feet or feet for hands? Would you rather go back in time or go to the future?
Not only do the kids have to pick one or the other, but they also get the opportunity to ask questions or explain their choices. The other kids in the game have to listen to their explanations, and they can raise their hands and ask thoughtful follow-up questions as well.
The best way to play this game is typically for you, the teacher, leader, or parent, to come up with and ask the questions. However, if you’re feeling brave and think you have a mature enough group, you can have the kids come up with some to ask each other (or you!) as well.
Nothing beats a dull day stuck inside reading a book or doing math problems than a fun day running around outside on an in-depth hunt. Scavenger hunts, while fun and entertaining, also make for excellent team-building activities that require great cooperation, critical thinking, planning, and communication.
Scavenger hunts are also fun because they can be done in several different ways. You can keep it simple by giving each team a list of items that they have to find along with a digital camera. A team leader (aka – an adult) can also use their phone.
The team must search for each item on their list and take a picture of it with at least one member of the team in the picture, thus ensuring there’s no cheating via Google Images.
Set a time at which both teams must return to the meeting spot. At that point, the teams will go over all of their pictures, and the team that got the most off of their list is the winner.
You can make your scavenger hunt a little more sophisticated for older groups of kids by giving out a list of clues. The clues lead to locations that contain additional clues and eventually lead to the ultimate prize at the end – the first one there wins.
Finally, your clues can lead to locations that contain puzzle pieces. Once the team has all the parts, they have to put the puzzle together to become the official winners. This version requires lots of leadership, teamwork, and cooperation.
What Are Social Skills?
Social skills define an individual’s ability to interact positively with those around them. They give each of us the skill set we need to make connections, communicate, and develop relationships. These skills start developing at a very young age and continue to blossom and hold true throughout our lifetime.
Not only can our social skills contribute to defining our personality and how we engage with others, but they can also help us become more flexible to the ever-changing situations we encounter.
Social cues become apparent as we grow, and we are able to read comfort levels and reactions. From there, we can adjust our approach to a relationship or a conversation.
Speaking more to the specifics, there are seven essential social skills that kids will begin to learn at an early age. Knowing and understanding these skills can help parents, teachers, and guardians guide the children in our lives to become better versions of themselves, ready to take on the world.
Sharing is a social skill that can begin in a child as early as two years old. Ahead of that time frame, you may see your one-year-old hand off an object to another person, but it’s likely unintentional and has no thought process behind it.
Around the age of two, young children begin to realize that they have the innate desire to share with someone else.
Of course, in this very early stage, your child likely also realizes that they have limited resources. For example, a small child who doesn’t understand the concept of generosity might be hesitant to share the one and only cookie they have in their possession.
When children get a little bit older, past their toddler years and into their young child years, this realization gets stronger. It’s at this point when you are likely to see more selfish behavior from your once naive and generous little baby.
However, that doesn’t mean your child will never share at this age. Many children at this age are willing to share plenty of things – snacks, toys, games – as long as they don’t have a particularly keen interest in whatever the object is.
Sharing is an essential skill for your child to learn, not only because it teaches them kindness and generosity and makes others feel good, but because it will also make them feel good about themselves. Sharing is a great way to boost self-esteem in a child.
Because we live in a world that tends to be very focused on the self, it’s vital that we, as parents, learn to enforce manners with our children now more than ever. This starts with the basics: the classic “please and thank you.”
None of us are simply born with manners. We all have to be taught what is considered socially acceptable and what the right words and phrases are. While this is undoubtedly learned behavior, it’s best determined by example.
Here’s looking at you, parents.
The most well-mannered children often come from well-mannered households. Kids watch adults – especially their parents – closer than most people realize. You may have even seen this on the contrary end when your toddler shouts out a dirty word that he heard dad say when he stubbed his toe.
The same concept applies to learning manners. While you can definitely tell your kids to say please, thank you, and excuse me, they will learn a lot from watching you and hearing you use those same phrases in context.
Remember to praise good behavior and gently correct bad behavior. Everyone can get a bit of a laugh from an accidental loud burp at the dinner table, but make sure to enforce the “excuse me” rule and explain why it’s not good manners to do that in a public setting.
Having superb listening skills is a social skill that will prove to be an asset later on in your child’s life – though it’s imperative during early phases as well. Many parents make the mistake of merely teaching their child to remain silent while someone else is talking, but listening is much more than being quiet.
Listening has to do with really being able to take in information and understand it, as well as being able to repeat it back to whoever is relaying it. You can hear music playing in the background, but unless you are actively listening to it, you couldn’t tell anyone what the words are.
Your child will become a good learner if he is a good listener. The most crucial part of learning is listening to the teacher. This means actually taking in the information, thinking about it critically, and perhaps even jotting down notes later on.
Listening comes into play later in life in the workplace and in relationships. An excellent romantic partner listens to their significant other to solve problems, get to know their personality, and love them the correct way. Likewise, a good friend listens for similar reasons.
In the workplace, bosses are likely to notice someone who is a good listener – as well as someone who is a bad one. Listening to your boss means taking instruction and completing a task as requested, not making it up as you go along. Not listening to your boss can result in significant mistakes, missed meetings, and dropping the ball.
You can help your child become more engaged by asking them questions throughout conversations. If you’re discussing your favorite colors and you already told her yours, ask her again what it was a little later in the conversation. If she doesn’t remember, gently remind her that it’s kind to listen to people and remember the small things that they tell you.
Be sure to try to catch any instances of her interrupting others, as well. This is a sign that someone is not listening – they are only thinking about what they want to say and not what the other person is currently saying.
Cooperating for a child is essentially teamwork, but it also extends to helping others out in general, being willing to aid when requested, and working towards a common goal. If any of these things sound familiar to you, that’s a good thing, because cooperation is a skill that follows us throughout our lifetime.
Your child will be a part of at least one community at a young age, if not more. Cooperation is crucial to achieving a thriving atmosphere of efficiency, productivity, and diversity.
Children start to cooperate together on small and basic projects, such as coloring a picturing. If the children are able to work well together, they can come up with a beautiful drawing. However, lack of cooperation can lead to disagreements, fights, and annoyance.
Cooperation also exists on many different levels. While one child might have a bolder personality and therefore isn’t afraid to take a leadership role, another may feel more comfortable as a contributor following instructions.
Doing things like cooking dinner together or assigning chores to keep the house running smoothly can help teach your kids about cooperation.
Eye contact is a superb sign of respectfulness and maturity in a child. In general, making eye contact with someone lets them know that you are genuinely engaged and taking in what they are saying. It’s a very professional detail that people notice.
It can be extremely distracting to have a conversation with someone whose eyes are wandering around the room or fixated on the floor. It makes the person speaking wonder whether or not they’re even interested in the words coming out of their mouth.
Some children can have some difficulty maintaining eye contact purely because they are young and have a short attention span. Other children who are shy may avoid eye contact due to their personal fears.
Do your best to emphasize the importance of eye contact. You can do this by asking your son or daughter to tell you a story. While they’re talking, try things like staring at the ground, closing your eyes, or staring at an object such as a book or your phone.
Ask them how it made them feel that see you so distracted, and remind them that’s how other people feel when they don’t make eye contact. Praise them when they get it right.
Small children have no concept of personal space. Unless they are timid, they are likely to get all up into areas that adults would consider private. They will walk into a bathroom unannounced, come looking for you when you’re getting changed, and tear through your personal items stored away in a drawer.
They simply do not know any better – but that’s why we teach them.
But as children and their peers get older, personal space becomes a matter of comfort that is different for everyone. In the adult world, it’s not okay to walk into an occupied bathroom or crawl onto a stranger’s lap.
Encourage your kids to respect a person’s personal space. Show them that they have their own private space, and remind them that they would not like it if someone invaded it. Enforce rules such as knocking on closed doors before entering and keeping your hands to yourself.
These kinds of necessary personal space details will become more complex as your child gets older and interacts with more people.
Following directions works hand-in-hand with listening. First, your child needs to be able to listen to, absorb, and understanding guidelines. Then, they need to be compliant and carry out those instructions.
When you follow directions as a child, you end up with praise, positive results, and happy authority figures. When you don’t follow instructions, you can end up with a punishment, a consequence, and even sometimes a dangerous situation.
Following directions can lead to immediate or long-term success. For example, instructing your child to keep his hands away from the stovetop burners can immediately save him from hurting himself. On the other hand, following directions from a coach can help an athlete improve his skills, supporting both him and the team.
Young children do well practicing with one direction at a time, so don’t try to throw multiple lists of instructions at him all at once. And when he makes a mistake, as is expected, take it as an opportunity to help him learn.