Social skills are the skills we use everyday to interact and communicate with others. They include verbal and non-verbal communication, such as using correct body language, understanding social rules, using appropriate language in conversation, and understanding other’s point of view.
Social skills are important to maintain positive interactions with others and for sustaining friendships. Here are some general activities that can help your child improve social skills:
- Turn taking: Play turn taking games (e.g. board games) to encourage your child to indicate whose turn it is in the game (e.g., “My turn”, “Your turn”, “I go“, “You go“).
- Sing songs: Sing actions songs such as ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ or Emotion Hokey Pokey song to teach your child about different emotions.
- Visuals: Make a poster of appropriate conversation or social rules (e.g. using a friendly voice, making eye contact, using appropriate greetings, such as ‘hello’) and post it at home as a reminder.
- Games: Play board games with your child. A good board game will help your child learn how to follow instructions, stick with rules and be a good sport whether they’ve won or not. Practice empathy and making supportive comments (e.g., “Way to go!” “Good game!“) while playing the games. You can also change up the rules of some games to encourage kids to cooperate towards a common goal, e.g. instead of competing against each other.
- Bean bag/checker stack conversation: Have a bean bag conversation! Throw a bean bag around a circle and each person takes a turn to contribute to the conversation. Or have a checker stack conversation where one player sets down a token to initiate a conversation and another player responds with an appropriate utterance, while placing another checker on top of the first one. Encourage different ways to contribute to the conversation (e.g., ask a question, comment on what has been said, add something related to the topic).
- Role play: Practice playground/play scenarios where the child does not know anybody. Model and create a list of different things you can say:
- To join others who are playing (e.g., “Can I play too?”).
- To introduce yourself (e.g., “Hi my name is ….”).
- To politely negotiate with peers (e.g., “I don’t want that one. Can I have the green ball please?”).
- Watch and comment: Role play different situations and comment about appropriate and inappropriate attempts of communication (e.g., standing too close or too far from another person, not using appropriate eye contact, interrupting a conversation).
Additional resources and activities:
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These videos are short, visually interesting, and have limited language. You can use them to generate conversation, work on sequencing and narratives, and social thinking skill development. A great video for one student may not be a great video for another student. Remember to ALWAYS PREVIEW YOUR VIDEO BEFORE SCREENING WITH STUDENTS.
Anna Vagin, SLP, has done a lot of excellent work in the area of using YouTube videos in speech-language pathology, and many of these videos come from her suggestions. You may wish to explore her work and publications further at socialtime.org