Social skills activities are wonderful for teaching kids social skills. When kids develop social skills, they are better able to get along with others.
Some kids are good at understanding and displaying effective social skills. They are usually popular, outgoing, and know how to engage with other people effortlessly.
Then there are those children who are shy, don’t talk much, and are more reserved. They may get anxious when they interact with others, especially in unfamiliar territory.
Additionally, kids on the Autism spectrum also struggle with social skills deficits.
Our culture tends to look down on people with social skills deficits and have a hard time accepting them. I’ve heard people say the following in reference to someone who presents as socially awkward:
They are so weird. They must be autistic. Were they homeschooled? That kid is going to be a serial killer (I kid you not,-I’ve heard therapists make this statement).
The truth is, many people who we label as ‘normal,’ struggle with social skills. Social skills is an area that we can all improve in.
What are social skills?
Social skills are the means by which people can make connections to others, exchange information and ideas, make their needs and desires known, and enter into and maintain relationships with other people (Taylor, Richards, and Brady, 2005).
Social skills allow us to interact and communicate with others. These skills include verbal and non-verbal communication, such as gestures, facial expression, body language, and personal appearance. People who are socially competent are able to:
- Show empathy for others
- Participate in group activities
- Be generous
- Be helpful
- Communicate effectively with others
- Problem solve and negotiate
A person with strong social skills knows how to behave in social situations and understand both verbal and non-verbal cues when communicating with others.
Social skills needed for success
Based on two decades of classroom research and surveys from 8,000 elementary school teachers, researchers from Vanderbuilt University identified ten social skills kids need to develop in order to be successful in school: Their research findings indicate that children benefit greatly when they know how to:
1. Listen to others
2. Follow the steps /Follow directions
3. Follow the rules
4. Ignore distractions
5. Ask for help
6. Take turns when talking to others
7. Get along with others
8. Stay calm with others
9. Be responsible for their behavior
10. Do nice things for others
Benefits of learning social skills
There are numerous benefits to being socially competent. According to Lynch & Simpson, “the development of social skills lays a critical foundation for later academic achievement as well as work-related skills.
Families and schools that create an environment which reinforces social competency, allow children a greater opportunity to have positive short and long-term success. When kids learn effective social skills they:
- Develop a positive attitude about themselves and others
- Communicate better with others
- Develop more self-control and are better able to manage their behaviors and emotions
- Manage conflicts more effectively
- Learn to be empathetic and see other people’s perspective
Related article: 100+ Social Skills Activities For Preschoolers
Signs of social skills deficits in children
Social skills deficits can become a lifelong problem for children if not addressed early on. Therefore, it is important that we identify and address deficits as soon as possible. If a child has difficulties with social skills they might:
- Have trouble making and keeping friends
- Inconsistently make eye contact, look down at the ground, or they may stare at others
- Have difficulties taking turns during a conversation, talk over others, interrupt, or offer irrelevant
- input in a conversation
- Have inappropriate boundaries and don’t recognize people’s personal space
- Not understand the consequences of their actions.
- Struggle to use good manners
- Ask inappropriate questions
- Be rigid in their thinking and can’t see other people’s perspective
- Have trouble understanding sarcasm and take things literally
- Have difficulty reading body language and non-verbal cues
- Be unable to respond to teasing, anger, failure and disappointment appropriately
- Have difficulty asking for help
- Lacks empathy
- Come off as conceited, self-centered, and/or entitled
- Have a difficult time handling conflict
- Not be able to handle failure
How to help children improve social skills
Developing social skills in children is all about teaching them to communicate effectively through verbal and non-verbal means. According to Ladd & Simpson, 2005, “teaching social skills can incorporate a number of techniques, including direct instruction, learning from peers, prevention of problem behaviors, and children’s books.”
Ladd & Simpson also emphasize that “many social behaviors are better learned among peers, so teachers of young children are in a unique position to promote social learning in their classrooms.” There are many fun activities early childhood educators can use to develop social skills in young children.
Social Skills Activities
There are so many different activities you can utilize to help children develop their social skills. Below are links to some fun and creative social skills activities.
Activities That Teach Empathy
Empathy Game: A Tool To Teach Kids To Be Considerate by Moments A Day
Empathy Activities That Prevent Bullying by Preventing Bullying
Activities That Teach Kids How to Make and Keep Friends
Getting Acquainted and Friendship Games by AtoZ Kid’s Stuff