15 Fun Activities That Help Kids Develop Social Skills
Social skill activities for kids in today’s world is an essential requirement. Because of the overwhelming presence of ‘smart’ (phones/ television), tablets etc.
It is therefore, very important that we as parents enable our children to participate in play/social activities.
There are two types of toddler activities that greatly help develop a child’s personality. They are described as follows:
- Social Skills activities for toddlers can be defined as activities that help facilitate communication and interaction with other kids.
- Social Emotional activities for toddlers can be defined as forms of play. That facilitate recognition and acknowledgement of one’s emotions, understanding other’s feelings and knowing how to respond/act accordingly.
Before I discuss these activities, let me share my story with you first and why I felt the need for these activities.
“Eli, ………………Eli………………. Eli………………….” I screamed for the fourth time, frustrated and annoyed, trying to get the attention of my toddler whose eyes were stuck to the T.V.
With no extended family and support around, I admit I have generously used television as back up child care while cooking, cleaning or having a conversation with a friend.
“Oh, it is just a harmless cartoon! What else will he do at home! I don’t have the energy to answer his endless questions! At least he is quiet when I give him the ipad”. It was some of the reasoning I used in letting my son indulge in screen time.
However, this dependency on screen time became so much that without it. My son would not eat his food, sleep or oblige to any request and much to my chagrin was becoming extremely aggressive.
This small indulgence turned into an addiction for my toddler. Not only were his social skills affected but also the lack of physical movement affected his appetite and sleeping pattern too.
Startled and worried about his behavior, I tried to look around the internet for activities that would help keep him socially engaged.
After having found these activities, it was a challenge, to get him away from the television and ipad and participate in the social activities. The first two days there was a lot of crying and screaming.
My son was miserable and would not even look at the activities I arranged for him. I was frustrated to bits and wondered if the move I made was right.
However, after two days of complete abstinence from screen time and just crying, much to my relief, curiosity got to him. He began to look at the activity box.
I mostly chose indoor activities because the place where I stay is frequently caught up in snow storms and bad weather.
These are some simple and interesting social skill activities for kids that can keep children occupied without having us parents resort to television or iPads.
Below is a list of Social Skills and Social Emotional activities for toddlers that I encouraged my son to engage in. These activities immensely helped with his social and personal development.
Social Skills and Social Emotional Activities for Toddlers
1) Playdoh: Each day I would sit with my toddler for some time and show him how to make shapes with the playdoh, (though, mostly his interest was in eating the colorful dough).
But, slowly he picked up, and started making some shapes.
While interacting with my son, I tried to engage in eye contact with him, use different words while building shapes e.g. pat, squish, roll, etc., teach him concepts of shape and color and encourage him to use his imagination. There was great cognitive and social development through this method.
2) Reading: This activity was a big hit with my son. It took me almost two weeks to get him to sit and look at the books without him running all around the place.
Once he knew what was expected of him, he began to look at the books. I first choose bright and colorful picture books which captured his attention and then slowly moved to small story books.
Reading helped him to listen, stay focused on one task and helped improve his observation and imagination. He then started asking questions about the pictures which in turn greatly helped increased his vocabulary and enabled him to express himself.
3) Facial Expressions: This was a fun game I invented at the restaurant to help keep my little one occupied while we waited for food. I would make up different emotions e.g. sad face, happy face, angry face, surprise face etc. and ask him to guess what I was feeling.
Once my little one knew the different emotions, I would ask him what each character was experiencing while we were reading and then we would talk about what we could do to help make the character feel better. This was a great way to teach my son to identify emotions.
4) Imitation: Sometimes, when I am busy in the kitchen and am not able to give my 100 % attention to my toddler, I give him a bowl and spoon and ask him to cook along with Mommy.
Trust me, pretend-cooking can also be a favorite activity of toddler boys. I can say that as a mother of two boys.
A bowl and spoon with some imaginary food can keep them occupied for a good amount of time and also greatly help with their social skills.
While he was pretending, I would ask my toddler what he was cooking, what ingredients he was using, whom he was cooking for etc.
All these questions encouraged him to listen, observe and express himself.
5) Dancing: This activity helped release all the extra energy in my toddler on days when we were stuck indoors. He has a great time and also dancing greatly helped develop his motor skills and most importantly his appetite.
6) Playing with Blocks/Legos: Divide the bag of building blocks in two piles between yourself and your toddler. As your toddler keeps building, ask them what the color of the block is that he/she is using.
Also, teach them to “Ask” if they need a block from your pile. This way your toddler will learn to share, observe and learn to ask, rather than grab, when playing in a group.
7) Playing with a Ball: The very act of kicking the ball back and forth or catching a ball is a great way to develop kids motor skills. Through this form of physical play, you can also teach your child social skills like taking turns, sharing, following instructions etc.
8) Telephone/Telephone: With mobile phones being used in each household, conversing on a phone is an act that toddlers love enacting.
Through this imitation parents can teach phone etiquette and also help their kids hold a conversation thus enhancing their social skills.
9) Coloring: Coloring is an activity that will help your child, to focus his/her attention on one task, use their imagination and express themselves.
This form of play is very useful because toddlers nowadays have very limited attention span and tend to get distracted very easily.
Teaching them to stay in one place and focus on one task goes a long way in ensuring academic success.
10) Simon Says: Simon Says is a fun game about following instructions. One needs to pay attention and listen carefully to the instructions to play this game.
It is a great play method to teach your child to pay attention and improve their listening skills.
11) Roleplay: Using children’s stuffed animals in role play is a great way to teach them the concept of empathy. For e.g. “Rocky the rhino is not playing with beebee the lamb, how do you think beebee the lamb feels? What should rocky the rhino, do to help beebee feel better? “
12) I spy: This is a great activity for toddlers to help improve their observation, vocabulary and focus. I play these games with my toddlers when we are waiting at an appointment or someplace else. This keeps them occupied and is real fun.
13) Staring Contest: Engaging in eye contact with my toddler was a tough task. I noticed that when I looked into his eyes and gave an instruction, he was most likely to follow through.
And so, to make it fun we started having these staring contests. This way making eye contact with me became less intimidating for my son.
14) Dress Up: I have a set of Halloween costumes that my son uses to play pretend. This is a great way to encourage their imagination and thinking.
Also, I use this activity to help teach my toddler the concept of empathy. For e.g. pinky panda is hurt, can Eli the super hero please help her.
15) Hide and Seek: Apart, from being so much fun this activity helps your child to listen, focus and learn to take turns.
The above mentioned “social skill activities for kids” is a great way to have fun with your toddlers. They creatively encouraging them to share, take turns, empathize, care for others and follow instructions with minimal tears and no power struggle