7 social skills activities for elementary students
Developing good social skills is essential for your child’s school and workplace success. Being able to listen, understand the emotions of others, and collaborate sets them up for success in every area of life, but some children struggle with eye contact or expressing their feelings. Luckily, these are skills that can be learned. Our behavioral experts at A Cognitive Connection have put together a list of 7 social skills activities that you can try at home.
If your child has a disability like ADHD or autism, it’s best to work on social skills with a trained therapist who can assign exercises appropriate for your child’s age and comfort level. For example, group therapy through A Cognitive Connection is a great place for your child to practice social interactions in a controlled environment.
1. Emotion Charades
Emotion charades are a fun way to help your child understand and recognize emotions. Instead of acting out a word or object, have them act out different emotions while you guess. Then switch roles.
For some children, it may be best to write down a bunch of different emotions on slips of paper and put them in a hat or bowl. Then they act out the emotion on whichever slip of paper they draw. This prevents them from choosing emotions that they are already comfortable with.
You can also do a Pictionary version of this game where your child tries to draw the emotion. This game is best for younger elementary students.
2. Social Storytelling
Write down different types of social skills on paper and place them in a hat or bowl. Then encourage your child to create a story about whichever social skill they draw.
This could be a story about someone who didn’t listen and ended up getting hurt or a story about someone who was kind and made a new friend.
If your child isn’t comfortable making up a story, start with real-life examples that they’ve seen at home or school, such as when a sibling shared a toy with them.
3. The Conversation Game
This game is best for older elementary students. Have your child come up with topics that they could talk about with a friend, such as favorite movies, hobbies, or books. Then choose one of these topics for a practice conversation.
Have your child ask you a question about the topic. Answer the question and ask a related question back to your child. Keep going back and forth until one of you can’t think of another question.
This helps children learn to stay on-topic and build positive relationships by showing interest in the thoughts and feelings of others.
4. Building Game
This game can be played with younger students or older ones who need extra practice. It works best with other children, such as siblings or friends, but a parent and child can also do this activity together. Choose a simple task or challenge for your child, such as making the tallest Lego tower.
Encourage them to work together (or with you) on the project by discussing what they should do next and helping each other. You should also make sure that everyone is listening to each other and taking turns.
This game teaches kids to work as a team and practice communication skills. It also teaches problem-solving skills, which can be very useful in social situations.
5. Listening Games
This is a great way to practice active listening skills with your child. Start by having them listen to a story or conversation while you talk. Then ask them questions about what they heard and encourage them to pay attention to the details of the conversation.
You can also play guessing games where your child has to guess what you’re thinking or feeling. Start by talking about something and then ask your child to guess what emotion you’re feeling or predict what you’re going to say next. This game encourages them to pay attention to facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice while they practice active listening skills.
Other classic listening games include Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light.
6. Staring Contests
Staring contests can help children become comfortable making eye contact while speaking. Start with holding eye contact without looking away or blinking. Then as your child becomes more comfortable, you can add conversation or storytelling. You can even put a sticker on your forehead to give them a focal point.
This game is best for children who are comfortable with some eye contact but need to practice it in a conversational setting.
7. Role Playing
Role-playing can help your child become more comfortable navigating social situations. Brainstorm what types of conversations they might have with friends or family members, then act out the conversation together.
You can also practice different scenarios at home, such as how to greet someone you don’t know or how to politely ask for something. This gives them a chance to practice their communication and social skills in a safe environment before trying them out in the real world.