20 Social Skills Activities To Help Child & Youth with Social Development
There are a plethora of social skill activities that contribute to a child’s emotional, social, and physical well-being. Participating in social activities allows kids to build positive relationships and conflict-resolution skills.
They also help children become more empathetic, as they learn to think about others’ thoughts and feelings. However, parents often struggle with helping their kids develop these important skills.
After all, conversations about emotion and relationships may not be comfortable for some parents. However, simply adding in some simple social skill-building activities could address this issue. Kids need social interactions to learn about proper social behavior.
In this article, we will cover which activities most contribute to social development in children and the benefits of implementing such activities.
What are Social Skills?
Social skills are necessary for proper communication. This includes any form of communication, whether it be emotional expressions, body language, or speech. Therefore, there are two subcategories of social skills: verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
Everything we say is influenced by more than the content of our speech. Tone, hand and/or other body gestures, as well as other nonverbal expressions. Some people believe they are naturally skilled at communicating.
While this may be true, there are plenty of examples of people who developed social skills without an extroverted or charismatic nature. The key to developing social skills in understanding how individuals communicate with one another.
It entails understanding how to clearly send a message to others, as well as how to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in your speech and gestures.
20 Examples of Social Skills Activities
While socializing may seem simple, developing this key skill can be a difficult time for some individuals. A few simple and exciting activities can kickstart social improvements in children. The following list of evidence-based social skills activities are examples of quality social activities for children.
- Staring Contest
- Game of Roll the Ball
- Virtual Playtime
- Emotion Charades
- Facial Expression Mimicking
- Topic Game
- Step into Conversation
- Improvised Stories
- Name Game
- Simon Says
- Music-making and Rhythm Games
- Character Games
- Playing Pretend
- Token Stack
- Decision-Making Games
- Building Activities
- Team Sports
- Productive Debate
- Scavenger Hunts
Eye contact is necessary to remain dominant in a conversation. It’s also needed to remain engaged. Unfortunately, kids often struggle with maintaining eye contact. Starting contests encourage kids to focus on their conversations.
It reduces impulsivity and reduces the odds of kids speaking over each other. If that is too difficult for your child, place a sticker on your head and instruct them to look at it while having a conversation.
Game of Roll the Ball
Even toddlers can participate in this engaging game. It is simple: two children take turns rolling a ball to the other player. They learn to synchronize when to take action and when to let others participate.
This skill translates to conversations or other joint activities. Also, the self-control skills gained in this activity reduce children’s impulsivity.
With the plethora of technology available in the 21st century, you can try setting up your child on virtual chats or conferences. They will have to learn to pay attention and retain eye contact, even without being there in person.
Virtual activities help kids adapt to new communication methods, which will likely be useful in the future. Problem-solving abilities are also developed through virtual conferences, as they come up with new ways to speak with their friends and family.
Charades is a classic lighthearted game. This version involves kids writing down an emotion, acting it out, and others guessing the emotion. Kids learn to recognize the ways certain emotions are portrayed by individuals.
You could also use a similar twist on Pictionary, where the kids draw the emotion instead of acting it out. Through acting out such emotions, children learn to manage their feelings. This contributes to smooth feeling communication and stronger relationships.
Facial Expression Mimicking
Expressions can assist kids in understanding social cues. Through mimicking expressions, kids understand the meaning of certain expressions and realize when it is appropriate to use such looks. Kids who struggle with social skills may develop such skills if they understand their colleague’s facial expressions.
To play this cooperative game, start by choosing a topic (such as animals or professions) and letter. Find a word that starts with each letter for that topic. The game teaches kids to be persistent, creative, and follow directions.
Step into Conversation
Step into Conversation is a card game made specifically for kids with autism. It is an excellent activity that helps kids start conversations or remain on topic with cards. It describes elements of empathy, staying on topic, and remaining engaged.
Kids learn when to speak, how to be polite, and when to let others talk. It adds structure to conversations; these structures can later be applied to real-life situations.
Storytelling is a common behavior in both children and adults. Adding the improvised element allows children to think critically and quickly. Begin by creating cards with words and pictures. Place them face down on a surface.
Instruct kids to select three cards and then include these objects in their narrative. The game ends when the story is over or all the cards have been utilized. This can be a multiplayer game, where kids build off one another’s ideas, or an individual game.
This is definitely one of the simplest ways to develop social skills. Kids must call out someone’s name before rolling a ball to them. Kids learn to communicate clearly and remember details, such as their peers’ names. They become attentive and show others they have the cognitive ability to remain focused.
It is a popular school or party game that most adults can recall playing. Simon Says develops a child’s listening skills, self-control, attention skills, and helps them follow instructions. For those that show proper behavior and rule-following, a clear reward is given, which most kids can appreciate.
Music-making and Rhythm Games
Music can bring out the creative qualities in children. They help children identify patterns and follow instructions. In fact, science supports the idea that music-making games develop children’s social qualities. Kids who follow the rules were proven to be more cooperative and helpful.
Naturally, children enjoy playing and being creative. You can interact with your kids through an intermediary, like a doll or a stuffed animal. Kids are more likely to express their thoughts and feelings through play instead of through difficult conversations. They can practice their social skills without worrying about making mistakes and hurting others.
All that is necessary for this activity is imaging you are someone you are not. Your child could pretend to be a teacher, surgeon, cashier, or even the president. They can explore different communication styles and social activities during playtime.
For instance, if they imagine themselves as the country’s leader, they learn to be charismatic, listen to others’ input, and adapt to an ever-changing environment.
A slightly more socially oriented version of checkers, token stack involves children doing their best to speak appropriately. Each time they succeed, a token is added to their stack. The challenge is to get as many tokens as possible. Thus, children must learn to maintain a calm conversation and give genuine responses to questions.
There are a plethora of decision-making games that help kids build social abilities. Even simple sorting games help kids become persistent, cooperative, thoughtful, and empathetic.
Kids will have to settle on a decision, even if it is not correct at first. Do not punish kids if they get something wrong, but rather, encourage them to keep trying after making mistakes.
Building requires an immense amount of socializing, even if it is just with Legos or blocks. Kids must communicate with one another, listen, and understand one another to execute a common plan.
They collaborate to create their desired item. If they fail, they learn to adapt and create a new strategy. Once they succeed, they can celebrate their unique abilities.
This activity involves a more hands-on approach, as it teaches kids to take care of a fragile living object. Kids learn to become committed to something else’s thriving, and take responsibility for their actions. It can also calm kids down and get them connected to nature.
Whether it be a team sport, club, or simply playing in the backyard, sports can contribute to a kid’s social development. It teaches kids to be team players and collaborative toward a common goal. They must also learn to deal with negative emotions after losing and learn the proper positive expression after winning.
This activity is centered more toward older children. They can manage their emotions and communicate properly with their peers. Also, they must keep their cool during debates. Thus, they learn de-escalation techniques and avoid insults. Those who are skilled debaters also gain key communication and leadership skills, which are valuable in school and later at work.
In such hunts, kids search for objects with their peers. They clearly identify a goal and use teamwork, organization, and decision-making to reach this target. The reward comes with cooperation, which helps them collaborative effectively in the future. When kids create their own clues, they also work on their creativity.
Benefits of Learning Social Skills
Now that you know ways to gain social skills, you may be wondering about the specific benefits of gaining these qualities. There are truly an immense amount of benefits to an individual’s future career, current relationships, and mental well-being.
These benefits include:
- Clearer communication with your peers
- Maintain a positive outlook on life, and inspire others to do the same
- Develop self-control, both for negative emotions and impulsivity
- Dissolve conflicts and address differences with colleagues effectively
- Become empathetic and see problems from someone else’s perspective
Social Skills Activities for High School Students
Maintaining attention is usually a struggle for high schoolers. Therefore, parents are often confused by how they can help their kids develop social skills. Nonetheless, there are a number of great activities that can kickstart their social development.
Here is just a shortlist:
- Role Play
- Speed Dating with Conversations Cards
- Strengths Jenga
- Act of Kindness Board
Developing social skills takes lots of practice, which is exactly what role play provides kids. Empathy, leadership skills, charisma, and other traits can all be developed by placing yourself in someone else’s shoes. These are both fun, creative, and insightful activities that can even engage high schoolers.
Speed Dating with Conversations Cards
One way to develop communication skills is by speed dating. Since this can be challenging, provide your teens with some potential conversations starters. They can then learn to start conversations and maintain them. Also, they get to know their peers and understand others who are different from them.
Start by passing out a Jenga block to all the kids in your group. Then, instruct them to write down what they believe to be their greatest strength or skill. Have each person read their response as they add the block to the tower. Finally, explain the importance of teamwork and listening to others.
Act of Kindness Board
Find some room for a board that details everyone’s random acts of kindness. Add some empty sticky notes or board space and ask teens to write down any kind of acts they performed over the past few days on the sticky notes. This will encourage kids to be kind and communicate with one another.
The debate does involve a bit of confidence and quick thinking, so it may not be for more introverted individuals. However, it also helps kids to respect others, read facial gestures, and understand others’ opinions. The debate does not necessarily have to be political; in fact, it can be about something as simple as the best pizza topping.
Social Skills Activities for Autism and Special Needs
Kids with autism often face challenges with making friends and communicating with their peers. Nonetheless, they are often equally interested in maintaining strong relationships with their peers. They may just be confused about how to execute quality conversations.
A few ways to assist kids with autism include:
1. What Would You Do?
In this game, kids consider how they would react in certain scenarios. Parents can ask their kids, “how would you do this?” or, “how would you react if this happened?” It helps children gain some critical thinking skills and learn how to respond to questions.
2. Sharing Time
A favorite game for elementary school teachers, sharing time is a great social/emotional development game for kids with autism. Kids take turns sharing details about an item with the class. Autistic kids learn to actively listen and also describe their own interests. If they share a common interest with a peer, they might gain a new friend.
3. Emotion Cards
Design cards with a picture of someone expressing emotion on one side, and the emotion being expressed on the other side. See if your child can guess the emotion expressed. If they are confused, give them hints or explain the context behind the picture.
4. Board Games
Manners are an important element of communication and relationship building. You can add an element of etiquette to classic board games to give kids an opportunity to learn about manners. Simply have them say ‘good luck’ or ‘good game’ during and after the game.
5. Name Game
Kids with autism may struggle with remembering other people’s names or feeling comfortable with introducing themselves. Gather kids in a circle. Share your name, and then have the person to the right do the same.
Then, ask him to remember your name and recite it. Do the same for everyone across the circle, with each person having to remember the name of a random student before them.
Signs of Social Skills Deficits In Children
Let’s now take a look at some of the main key elements when it comes to building trust in remote teams.
A remote team offers different changes than a normal team but at the same time, many things are similar.
To give children the best odds of success, you must address any social skill deficits early on. If you do not, these gals could potentially impact them for years in the future. So, it is important to spot deficits early on in life.
Some potential signs to look out for include:
- Trouble to make friends or to maintain friendships
- Inconsistent eye contact. They may choose to stare at other objects, such as the floor or ceiling
- Difficulty maintains a smooth conversation. They may interrupt others, randomly switch topics, or create awkward pauses
- Cannot recognize others personal space and boundaries
- Disregard potential consequences for their actions
- Use improper manners
- Ask personal questions or use inappropriate language
- Have difficulty seeing other’s perspectives and struggle with empathy
- Cannot recognize sarcasm or hyperbole
- Struggle with nonverbal communication and reading other people’s body language and expressions
- Difficulty asking for assistance
- Could be viewed as selfish or self-centered
- Challenges with mitigating conflict
- Overly perfectionistic and gives up after failure
Frequently Asked Questions About Social Skills Activities
How do you teach social skills?
Kids learn social skills best through practice, which means they must socialize to gain these skills. One way to encourage social skill development is through exposing kids to new friends and giving them topics to speak about.
There are many games that can help teach kids to socialize and communicate effectively, too. Building together or playing pretend are natural ways kids can learn to communicate and work together.
What are social development activities?
There are a plethora of activities that can help kids socially develop. This includes games such as Simon Says, strength Jenga, role play, emotion charades, speed dating with cards, roll the ball, staring contests, name game, improvised storytelling, “what would you do?” and even more.
What are some positive social skills?
Social skills benefit virtually all individuals, across all careers and with a wide range of goals. However, some skills are especially important. These skills are effective communication, conflict mitigation, active listening, empathy, respect, active listening, following directions, and using manners.
What are some social skills group games?
While there are some social skill-related games that are centered around individuals, there are also some team-oriented social games. Such games include feelings Uno, team Pictionary, emotion Bingo, strengths Jenga, roll the ball, team sports, and emotion charades.
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