When parents see their children struggling socially, many are tempted to explain and lecture the child on better ways. Unfortunately, long lectures tend to fall on deaf ears. There are many ways to go about teaching social skills.
- Use art projects – Teach turn taking by passing coloring papers between children. Teach sharing by offering one glue bottle to three children for a project. Highlight the social skill in conversation while they color. It’s fine to comment on any frustration, talk about it and brainstorm solutions to lessen the upsets.
- Read story books – There are so many good books about emotions and social exchange. The Berenstain Bears series offers books about sharing, bossiness and teasing. Hooway for Wodney Wat! covers bossiness and teasing, Timothy goes to School deals with social competition. My Many Colored Days and Today I Feel Silly teach about emotions. Don’t just read the books, dive into conversation. Ask them what they think about the stories, talk about similar things they’ve experienced.
- Play movement games – Simon Says, Wigglelow and Hullabaloo all teach listening skills. Three-legged races teach cooperative efforts.
- Role play – Re-enact situations similar to those that are a struggle. Encourage children to play each role, so they can think about the struggle from others’ perspectives.
- Puppet shows – If children aren’t comfortable with role playing themselves, bring out the puppets or the dollbabies. Children may be more open to this play as it is removed from them.
- Ask hypotheticals – We call this the “what if” game. Ask children a wide variety of what ifs based on their own social situations. Brainstorm many possible answers and outcomes for each scenario.
- Give opportunities for play – All the teaching in the world won’t do much good if children don’t have opportunities to practice themselves. Invite friends over, meet at the playground, plan outings or join playgroups. Children who struggle with social skills need more practice, not less!