Planning social skills activities for kids and social games for kids is easy when you think about ways you can turn familiar games and activities into social skills teaching aids. Whether you're a parent looking for ways to socialize a homeschooler and help your child with social skills or a teacher, these activities are fun and easy.
Social Skills Activities for Preschoolers
Students in preschool start learning basic social skills like sharing, taking turns, meeting new people, and following directions. You can use standard toys and role-playing to practice social skills.
Pass the Book, Please
Preschoolers will learn about turn-taking in this simple activity. You'll need a picture book with enough pages that each child can "read" one page or one spread. If you're doing the activity alone with one child, look for a shorter book like a fun board book.
- Introduce the activity. Explain that you'll take turns "reading" the book by looking at the pictures and telling a story about what's happening.
- Tell kids how many pages or page spreads they get to read on their turn and show what this looks like.
- You should start first to model the appropriate behavior.
- Read one page out loud. When you are finished telling your story, don't turn the page, but pass the book to the next "reader."
- Allow kids to "read" for as long as they want, but use the phrase "Pass the book, please" if you feel they're taking too long and need a reminder.
How Many Hellos?
Preschoolers can start to learn about introducing themselves to new people in this timed activity. You'll need a timer set for about three minutes.
- If you can, use about 5 family members or other kids. Have them stand in doorways or sit in chairs around the room or house.
- If it's just you and your child, set up some fake "people" to meet around the room or the house by putting stuffed animals in chairs or doorways.
- Explain and model how to introduce yourself to someone like saying "Hi, my name is Owen, what's yours?"
- When you start the timer, your child needs to go to each person and introduce himself.
- If he does a good introduction, the person should respond, then your child can move to the next person. If you're using stuffed animals, you should be the voices for them.
- When time is up, count how many new people your child met.
- Do the same series of introductions a few times and see how many people your child can meet in the set time.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Teach kids about listening and following directions with a tricky game where your words and your actions don't match up.
- Choose an activity to complete that requires several steps, like making breakfast or brushing teeth.
- Instruct your child to follow the directions you say, not the actions they see you do.
- Say your first step out loud as you perform an action that doesn't match what you say. You might say "Grab your toothbrush" while you're grabbing a cup.
- If the child does what you say, continue to the next step.
- If she copies your action instead, repeat the step until she gets it right.
Children will learn the basics of working as a team to accomplish a goal in this building activity. You'll need a bunch of blocks, any kind will work. The activity can be completed by two or more people.
- Choose a structure the group will build together. If you're using LEGOs, you might choose to make a bird. If you're using wooden blocks, you might choose to make a house with a roof.
- On a turn, each player can only place one block on the shared structure.
- If a child places a piece that won't work for the chosen structure, ask questions and discuss why it doesn't work or what might work better.
- Keep building until you've completed the structure.
Social Skills Activities for Kindergarteners
In kindergarten, kids will focus on social skills like active listening, regulating emotions and behaviors, working independently, knowing right from wrong, and using words to express things properly.
Red Light, Green Light Right and Wrong
Help kids learn the right and wrong with an easy game of Red Light, Green Light. You can play with multiple kids or one child.
- Create a starting line and a finish line using tape, jump ropes, or even a rolled-up towel.
- Create a list of scenarios that illustrate right and wrong behaviors or actions.
- When you read a wrong scenario, it's a red light and kids don't move.
- When you read a right scenario, it's a green light and kids take two steps forward.
- If a child moves when they aren't supposed to or moves the wrong number of steps, they go back to start.
- The goal is to cross the finish line.
Public or Private?
Kindergarteners can start to learn about sharing information with others. They'll look at what is private information versus what could be public information in this easy activity. Kids will need a pencil or pen for the activity.
- Create a list of things kids might talk about or say to others.
- About half should be private information kids shouldn't share with everyone, like their address or that they just went number two.
- The other half should be public information that's okay to share, like their favorite food or the movie they watched last night.
- Read an item from the list out loud.
- Your child should raise their hand if they'd say this publicly to others and raise their pencil if they'd keep it private.
- Give the correct answer after your child has raised their hand or pencil.
- Continue through half of your list, mixing in private and public information.
- For the second half of your list, run through the questions and answers as quickly as you can so kids have to make snap decisions.
Family Photo Guess Who
Help kindergarteners learn appropriate words for describing people with a homemade version of the game Guess Who. All you need are pictures of different family members.
- Set all the pictures out on a table in a grid pattern. The more family members you can include, the harder the game will be.
- One person will be the picker and the other will be the guesser.
- The picker should secretly choose one of the family members as their person.
- The guesser can ask yes or no questions that describe what the people look like in the pictures. If you run out of descriptors for the people, you can ask about the background of the picture or things you know about these people. You might say "Is your person a girl?"
- The picker answers the yes or no questions truthfully.
- The guesser can eliminate family members by turning over the photo of anyone who matches the question that got a "No."
- You should end up with one photo and that is your guess for who the picker chose.
- Switch roles for the next round.
Look at Me Freeze Tag
In this active game, kids will practice using appropriate methods of getting someone's attention. You'll need a small group of people and an open space to run around.
- Explain and model appropriate ways to get someone's attention such as raising your hand, saying "Excuse me, (Insert Name)," or tapping them gently on the shoulder.
- Explain and model inappropriate ways to get someone's attention such as getting really close to their face, yelling from across the room, or repeatedly saying their name.
- Choose two children to be taggers.
- Assign the taggers one appropriate way of getting someone's attention.
- The taggers will try to get other kids to look at them by only using their assigned action. For example, if a child was told to raise his hand, he'd try to get in front of another player and raise his hand.
- The other kids will run around with their eyes open and try not to look at the taggers.
- If a tagger uses an inappropriate action or an action other than the assigned one, the runner keeps running.
- If a tagger uses the assigned action and the runner looks at him, he freezes in place.
- Once all runners are frozen, start a new round with new taggers and a new action.
Social Skills Activities for Elementary Students
Kids in grades one through five can keep practicing the social skills they learned earlier and start to learn more complex skills. You can use activities and games that incorporate several skills at once.
Emotion Slap Jack
Turn a game of Slap Jack into a game of practicing emotions and remembering directions. You'll need a standard deck of playing cards with the Jokers.
- Assign the following emotional reactions to the face cards.
- King - Yelling
- Queen - Smiling and waving
- Jack - Crying
- Joker - Laughing
- Play using Slap Jack rules. Deal out all the cards as evenly as possible. On a turn, you flip over one card in the center of the playing area.
- If the flipped card is a face card, try to be the first to slap it.
- The first person to slap the card has to show the emotional reaction assigned to that card.
- If you slap a card that isn't a face card, you lose a turn.
- If you slap the face card and perform the wrong emotion, you lose a turn.
- If you slap the card and perform the right action, you keep all the cards in the center.
- The person with the most cards when everyone's deck pile has run out is the winner.
Help kids practice working in a team or group by playing group charades. You'll need at least three players for this game.
- Play a standard game of charades. Try to choose categories where kids can work together to act out an animal or movie title, for example.
- The difference is, two players will have to work together silently to act out the charade.
- If you have more players, you can have larger groups act out a charade together. You just need one person to do the guessing.
Older kids can practice their conversational skills with a friend or an adult. This visual activity illustrates what a balanced conversation looks like. You can use this activity for groups of two or more.
- You need some type of small objects that can be stacked easily like poker chips, LEGOs, or coins.
- Each person should choose one color object or one kind, so everyone has a different stackable item. For example, you might have pennies and your child has dimes.
- The first person starts the conversation by placing a coin in the center of the group and saying something.
- Everyone takes turns continuing the conversation by stacking their coins on top of the others and saying something that makes sense for the conversation.
- See how long you can keep your conversation going and how high you can get your stack.
- If the stack falls over, start a new conversation about a new topic.
Simple Social Skills Games for Kids
Any cooperative games, including card games, board games, backyard games, and even video games will help kids learn things like communication, working with a group, taking turns, and following directions. You can always remove the competitive element by altering the rules so there is an end goal, but no winner.
Show Off Your Social Side
Every kid has their own personality, so not all of them are natural social butterflies. Learning social skills helps kids understand what's typical and generally acceptable in social interactions. When you make social skills lessons fun, kids will feel more confident and excited about showing off their social side.