The ability to engage in teamwork, read emotions, share and make friends are all key social skills that are new to children at some point in their lives. Some kids are naturals at displaying effective social skills, however, to many children, social interactions don’t come naturally. Most children need to practice and develop their social skills over time, particularly kids on the Autism spectrum.
Developing social skills allows children to better understand facial expressions and body language, which it turn helps them to communicate better with others. Signs that your child may be struggling with their social skills are when they don’t pick up audible or visible hints, inability to see another’s perspective, difficulty making eye contact or difficulty in speaking at the right time in a conversation.
There are different ways to help improve these, so here are some of our favorite social activities to try with kids that are fun as well as helpful at a range of different age groups.
1) Treasure Hunt
A team treasure hunt is a fun way to help kids learn how to work together to reach a common goal. Hide some ‘treasure’ somewhere in the garden and create a map with some clues and riddles to help uncover its whereabouts. This takes a bit of preparation, but is one of the most fun activities to help social development. Task the children with uncovering different clues. Once the kids have retrieved all of the clues you can put all the puzzle clues together and reveal a final whereabouts of the treasure. This will help the kids feel involved in something larger that the individual and enjoy the team’s success.
2) Emotion Charades
This is like normal charades, but instead of guessing a film or a book, you have to act out different emotions. Start by writing a selection of emotions on pieces of paper, take a piece at random and act this out. Take turns to guess what the emotion is. This is a good way to help children understand different emotions and what physical social cues they give off so they can recognize the emotions in the future.
3) Building Blocks
Any building blocks like Lego or K’nex are useful in helping social skills as they allow an opportunity for teamwork. Let children discuss ideas of fun things they can make out of their building blocks. Once they have an idea, let them work together to bring their vision to reality. Make sure all the children get involved and help to contribute to the big picture and explain that there’s not ‘winners and losers’ but they’re working together.
4) Listening Game
Be able to really listen to people instead of simply hearing the words they are saying is a key communication skill. Young children start exploring their own world and it takes time before they can effectively communicate with others. Children who are able to listen can understand what others are saying, and can help them to perform better and make better relationships.
To play the listening game, tell children a story. It could be a funny story, a made up story or a famous story, it doesn’t matter as long as it can engage the children. At a random point in the story, let another one of the children take over the story and repeat the previous sentence. If they get the sentence wrong, they are disqualified! Carry this on until you have a winner. This is also create at helping children’s imagination and creative skills.
5) Funny Faces
Play a funny faces game, where you have to act out emotions and pull funny faces and the child has to imitate you. You can take turns in this. This is a fun game to play with very young children and it will help them learn about different emotions, read facial expressions and be more comfortable displaying their own emotions. Make it entertaining by pulling silly faces like sticking your tongue out to get the most laughs.
6) Book Club
Once a child has read a book, discuss the story with them afterwards and ask questions about the emotional content. Ask them why the character was happy or sad? This will make them question what influences different emotions and help them to get a better social understanding of the world. It will help increase their empathy with others and learn about their own emotions.
7) Board Games
Try playing a board game with children, but this time have people playing as teams. Having two children working together in a boardgame game can help to form friendships and improve their teamwork and cooperation ability. If you’re playing a game that’s skillful and competitive, it can have more benefits such as helping negotiating skills, debating and tactical discussions.