What Are Social Skills For Kids? And How Do You Encourage Them?

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Social Skills For Kids
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This past year has been really tough on so many kids around the world. Practicing social skills is a big part of growing up, and many kids ended up missing out on face-to-face interactions during the last few months. Luckily, many parents have introduced — or expressed an interest in — other social skills activities for children to make sure their little ones have been getting everything they need during this weird era of social distancing.

And really, it’s never a bad time to brush up on some social skills games that can help kids learn more about communicating with their peers. If you’re looking for ideas to help your child, here are some fun games and ideas.

Social Skills Examples

First, you’ll need to focus on the types of social skills that kids should be learning. These include manners, using kind vocabulary, being able to share, and knowing how to follow directions. Some children will need to work on these skills quite a bit, as they can be hard to master — especially when outside of a classroom setting. Scholastic believes that there are four C’s to learning these basic skills: confidence, cooperation, communication, and curiosity. These small skills can later lead to children better understanding empathy, along with recognizing the best ways to address their peers.

Hygiene is another social skill that kids need to learn. While plenty of preschoolers have done an impressive job of grasping the importance of handwashing, there’s more than that. Brushing teeth and bathing are also very important for kids to understand. It’s important for them to know why we keep clean, and how that helps us better interact with others.

Social Skills Activities

The following activities are super-easy to implement at home, yet could have a big impact on your child’s comfort level with socialization. So, what are you waiting for? Give ’em a try.

Use a prop at the dinner table

Whenever someone is holding the prop, then it’s their turn to talk. This will help teach children about staying quiet, listening, and not talking over others. You can also incorporate this as a fun way for your child to open up about their day. When they get the prop, it’s their turn to open up. When practicing social skills, it’s always good for a child to know when it’s their turn to speak.

Practice emotions

Parents can make faces, and their children can properly identify which mood they’re trying to express. This can help them get a better read on other children. It’s also a good way to reiterate that it’s normal to have emotions.

Work on eye contact

Staring games may seem a little juvenile at first, but they’re a good way to practice concentration. Since there are so many distractions out there — especially phones and screens — your child needs to learn how to look someone in the eye while talking. This will also make them seem more sincere during social interactions.

Social Skills Games

There are also plenty of games you can play that’ll help build social skills for kids:

  • Pictionary is a good choice because it lets teammates work together and try to communicate in new ways.
  • Empathy games are just starting to hit it big, where the requirements include trying to figure out how other players think.
  • Among Us (if you’re OK with the chat function) is another popular game where you need to work with a team of strangers to solve a mystery together.
  • A staring contest is as old as time but a great way to get to know someone. Some kids who struggle socially may have a hard time maintaining eye contact. But, it’s less intimidating in a game setting and prompts conversation (and jokes). If a staring contest is too much for your child, put a sticker on their opponent’s forehead and have them stare at that. The first person to blink still loses and the social benefits are the same.

If you look online, you should be able to find plenty of great social skills games that are age-appropriate for your child. Even games that don’t necessarily require teams could add them for the sake of building social skills for kids. If you’re creative (and/or crafty), games can be homemade to tailor to your child’s interests. And if you create a fun yet simple game that’s centered around your kid, they may take in these important life lessons even quicker.

Child Social Skills Checklist

In terms of social development, remember, each child is different and goes at their own pace. However, if you’re looking for an age-specific list of milestones to get a sense of the skills your child should have, see below.

Three to four-year-olds

  • Plays beside other children
  • Participates in themes of play like visiting the doctor, or going to work
  • Shows remorse when caught doing the wrong thing

Four to five-year-olds

  • Plays with other kids with a shared goal in mind
  • Plays games with rules that require an understanding of the roles of others, like hide-and-seek

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