Social skills activities provide a fun way for your child to learn and improve the way they interact with other children, family members and adults.
Summer can be a very social time for your child: meeting and making new friends in the neighborhood, visiting the playground, going on vacation or to summer camp.
Some children make new friends easily, and it comes naturally to them, while other children struggle with all these new situations, people and environments. They can be uncertain about how to interact with others, both verbally and non-verbally.
Here are some occupational therapy ideas to teach and develop social skills:
Talk to your child about how to deal with the expected and the unexpected
Use examples when something occurs in your daily life that is expected or unexpected. Label events as they occur as expected or unexpected. Share your feelings. Teach your child that expected and unexpected events can make you feel both happy and sad.
Expected mail – like when something you ordered arrives – makes you feel happy. Unexpected mail – like a postcard from a friend on a far away vacation – also makes you feel happy. An expected event like the last day of vacation can make you feel sad. An unexpected event like the store not having your favourite type of ice cream can also make you feel sad.
Help your child learn to evaluate their frustrations. Ask questions. Is it a big problem or a little problem? Will I feel the same way in an hour, a day or a week? Does mom or dad feel the same way? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Show and teach good listening skills
Are your eyes listening? i.e. your eyes are looking at the person talking. Are you ears listening? i.e. you are hearing what the person is saying. Are your hands and feet listening? i.e. hands and feet are kept to yourself. An important occupational therapy note: moving hands and feet by playing with a quiet fidget, for example, can also help improve listening for some children but we always teach “quiet” fidget strategies for good listening.
Reasons for happiness and sadness
When you are on a short or long car trip, try asking some of these questions: What makes me happy? What makes Mom, Dad, my brother, my sister, my teacher, my friend, Grandma, Grandpa happy? Do the same for sad, mad, afraid, excited, etc.
Use social skills games
Some of our favourite games for kids to learn social skills activities, in particular, learning to see through another’s eyes, are:
- I spy with my little eye, something that is... red (your shirt).
- I hear with my little ear something that is... whispering (the wind). This idea is courtesy of a wonderful boy named Alex.
- I smell with my wrinkly nose something that is... sweet (the flowers).
- I feel with my whole body something that is... warm (the sun).
- I show with my pointy finger something that is... up high (that bird).
- Follow the leader is a great game that offers a way to introduce turn-taking and imitation. Occupational therapists especially love it because it involves great praxis too (having an idea, making a plan and then executing it).
- Charades are even better!
Teaching social skills can be fun for children and parents alike. Social skills games are a way to make it effortless.
If your child is challenged with learning appropriate social skills and you’re frustrated, an occupational therapist can help. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what’s possible.
To learn more call Total Ability anytime Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:00 pm at 506-847-0677 or toll-free 1-877-784-5353 in New Brunswick.