Written by: Sara Goelz, M.S. CF-SLP
Social skills are vital tools necessary in order to be successful in our everyday lives. With current limitations on social gatherings, below is a list of simple play activities that can facilitate social development while social distancing.
1. Wheels on the Bus
Wheels on the bus is a fun and simple activity to encourage social skills with toddlers. Sit your toddler in front of you so they are facing you. Then, begin singing the song while performing the motions (round and round, open and shut, etc). This encourages joint interaction, eye contact, and imitating movements, all important in beginning to build social skills. Begin with just two parts of the song. As your child increases his/her length of attention and ability to copy the movements, then you can add additional parts of the song. This can be done with a variety of songs, not just Wheels on the Bus. (Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old McDonald, etc)
2. Kitchen Play
Kitchen play is a super easy way to practice social skills. If you have a play kitchen set at home, then you can have your child order food from you or be the chef. Encourage question asking (“Can I take your order?” or “Do you have pizza?), making comments (“This is yummy.”), and requesting (“I need more please.” Or “Can I have juice?”) during play. Asking questions, requesting, and making comments are all important aspects of holding conversations that your child will continue to grow upon and use in everyday reciprocal conversational situations. If you do not have a play kitchen set, then don’t worry, you can use items from your own kitchen!
Sorry is an excellent board game to practice social skills. Sorry requires taking turns, communication, and emotional regulation. Sorry is a board game that requires each player to move all four of their pieces from start to the finish. However, during play, opponents can move your piece back to start depending on where your piece is on the board. This creates opportunities to practice emotional regulation with your child. Some children may find it difficult to control their emotions when their piece is moved back to start. One tip is to remind your child what cards he or she will need to get his/her piece back out on the board. You can also prompt your child to make a positive reply when their piece gets bumped back to start, such as “It’s alright, I’ll get back out.”
4. Movie Night Debate
For older children, schedule a family movie night. For this activity choose one family member to be the judge and then each remaining family member chooses a movie to watch. Each family member then takes a turn giving 3-4 reasons why their movie should be the one that should be chosen. Each family member should then acknowledge the other movie choices then adjust their reasoning for the judge to choose their movie. The judge can then choose the movie of the night by who gave the best reasons why their movie should be the winner. This creates a great opportunity for your child to practice persuasive communication by providing reasons and details for their choices and then adjusting their reasons based on the information given by those around them.