By: Kelsey Coaldrake, M.A. CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist
Children learn so many valuable social skills through play and peer interaction, which is something that children seem to be missing out on or are at least getting less of during these increasingly virtual times. It seems that social distancing may be causing a decrease in children’s social emotional learning opportunities. If you’re looking for ways to work on social skills at home, here are a few ideas for you!
Games & Play
For younger kids working on social skills can be accomplished through almost any turn-taking activity. Learning to share and cooperate with siblings or adults at home is a first step in understanding the social world. Taking turns with toys such as alternating who stacks blocks onto a tower, or taking turns adding pieces to a puzzle is a good place to start. Simple games such as Candyland are also great. For children that need to practice working together, cooperative games such as Feed the Woozle or Snail Pace Race can be really fun!
For older kids, charades can help to practice communicating social messages nonverbally. To work on simple conversation and asking questions, I would recommend Guess Who?. For working on being a good sport and winning and losing, get out the game of Sorry. And for working on perspective taking by thinking about what the other players would find funny or interesting, play Apples to Apples.
Books & Movies
Simply sitting down with your child and reading books together can generate conversations about social situations and communication. A few picture books that lend themselves well to discussions about making friends, communicating our emotions, perspective taking and cooperative play are:
I Was So Mad, by Mercer Meyer
My Space Your Space, by Sandra Athans
Join In and Play, by Cheri J. Meiners
Unicorn and Horse, by David W. Miles
For older kids, movies can be an engaging way to tap into those social conversations. A favorite of mine is Elf. The main character (Buddy the Elf) has grown up in the North Pole so when he arrives in New York City, his social knowledge is lacking to say the least. He acts outside of the social norms repeatedly, which can be a good time to pause the movie and talk about the thoughts and feelings of those around him.
For kids that are not able to see peers at school right now, or do not have extracurricular activities to be around friends, think creatively about how they can still connect with other kids. Virtual play dates with zoom can be really enjoyable with all of the free online games that are out there. Here are a few cooperative games that can be played online over zoom with the screen sharing feature:
Snakes and Ladders
Also, throwing it back to letter writing and sending snail mail can be a unique way to stay connected with friends and family. Finding a pen pal that your child can write back and forth with or just sending cards and pictures through the mail to loved ones can help us all stay in touch (and maybe even spread some smiles!).
Kelsey is a Speech Language Pathologist at Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center. ETLC has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech language therapy and tutoring as well as offering a unique group Language Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP). At Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.
1210 Jordan Street, Suite 2A
North Liberty, IA 52317
2570 106th Street, Suite E
Urbandale, IA 50322