Social skills are the tools that help people communicate with one another. They allow us to ask for help, make friends and work with others. Basically, they’re what make the world go ’round. As children get older and start to interact with their peers, they must learn how to do so correctly. It’s often difficult to figure out how to teach kids socialization, especially if they have special needs. Here are a few quick and fun ways you can help your child develop their social skills.
1. Have a Staring Contest
One of the most crucial social skills is eye contact, as it indicates you’re focused. In other words, it shows that you’re listening to what the other person is saying. To introduce your child to this, put on a staring contest. This way, it’s a challenge – which works well if your kid loves some competition. Encourage everyone in the family to do this a few times a week. It won’t be long before your child is initiating the contests. They’ll view them as a fun challenge and may even start doing them with their friends. In no time, your child will understand the concept of looking someone in the eye. Then, they’ll have an easier time making meaningful connections with others.
2. Play a Board Game
This is a terrific way to exercise a variety of social skills. Whether they play with family or a group of friends, your kid can practice communication, problem-solving and sportsmanship all while having fun. Pull out a deck of cards, chutes and ladders or print an online board game designed for children. Teach them the rules of the game, which prompts them to learn to follow directions. Then, let them run free. They’ll play as they please, and at the same time, improve how they socialize. Don’t worry if things don’t go as planned – in the real world, issues arise. Encourage your kid to listen and consider everyone’s feelings as a means to resolve any conflicts.
3. Create Flashcards
There are many aspects of the English language that are hard to pick up. Figures of speech like metaphors, idioms and similes are used frequently, but take some time to adapt to. Create a set of flashcards online or on paper with various forms of these phrases. If your child is a visual learner, try to illustrate what each means. You might even want to turn this into a memory or matching game to make things easier. Either way, your child will likely come across these terms in the future.
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4. Practice Storytelling
A great tool to help kids learn how to stay on topic is through storytelling. You can easily fit this activity in at the dinner table or before bedtime. Set a few elements that must appear in the tale, like a princess who lives on the moon. These can be as far-fetched as you like – the point is to make sure that everyone meets the requirements of the story. If you’d rather discuss something more realistic, ask your family about the best part of their days. This is an opportunity to work on conversational skills, like facial expressions and waiting for your turn to speak.
5. Encourage Manners
Manners are crucial in everyday life – no one wants to chat with someone who isn’t polite. In some ways, this starts with you as a parent. Set an example by saying “please” and “thank you” when you’re in front of your child. If you’re out in public, use your manners even more than usual. Also, remind your kid to be polite when they aren’t. Manners also extend beyond these two phrases. When your child leaves the table, have them push in their chair. Ask them to take their shoes off at the door and not to make a mess in other people’s houses. A sticker chart reward system works well here, as it creates a sense of positive reinforcement and allows kids to feel empowered.
6. Use Roleplay
Kids love to use their imaginations and pretend, so it won’t be hard to have them act out scenarios. This activity is a great way to teach personal space. While sharing is an essential social skill, boundaries are as well. This is a massive part of learning to respect others. Invent a scenario that revolves around this concept. Maybe you’re checking out at a fictional grocery store or are in line for a made-up roller coaster. Remind your child to stand about an arm’s length away from the person in front of them. Tell them the value of the word “no” – some people, even friends and family, don’t want to be bothered. Roleplay allows for a simple and relaxed environment in which to learn these lessons.
Everything Takes Time
As children grow up, they continue to work on and refine their social skills. Even adults have issues in these areas. If your kid doesn’t grasp these concepts all at once, don’t fret. Continue to work through these various activities. If you suspect your child isn’t progressing as they should be, speak to your pediatrician, who can help you work on their development.
Jennifer Landis is the founder of Mindfulness Mama, a blog where she talks all things #momlife, marriage, mindfulness, and everything in between. A thirty-something mom of two, Jennifer spends her limited free time practicing yoga and pilates, sipping tea, and reading with her littles. You can find more from Jennifer on Twitter, @JenniferELandis.
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