Social Skills Activities for Kids

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Social skills are important in every day life. Being able to interpret another person's non-verbal cues is a huge part of communication. This lesson offers activities, organized by age, for assisting students with practicing social skills.

What are Social Skills?

Being able to understand someone else's verbal and non-verbal cues in everyday interactions is having good social skills. Children are not always great at being able to interact with each other in ways that are conducive to calm and effective engagements. As adults, using culturally specific social skills is imperative to be able to progress through life, work, and friendships smoothly.

This lesson offers games and activities to help children learn social skills and practice using these skills. The activities are organized based on general maturity level of students aged from about 5 years to 12 years old. Younger students (or those whose maturity level is still in early childhood levels) will benefit from more active and visual activities; whereas older students are equipped to handle written scenarios as they work on social skills.

Early Childhood Social Skills Activities

For early childhood, concrete actions will go far in solidifying proper social skills. Practicing social skills through the use of those skills is a great way for students to work on understanding the body language and other non-verbal cues that others can give. Getting young students up and active keeps them engaged. Limiting hypothetical scenarios while having students actively interacting also helps solidify the skills being taught.

Which Face is Which

  • Materials: Emotion cards, these could be smiley face emoticons that you print and laminate to make cards or they could be words expressing emotions (depending on the age and reading ability of your students). Make sure you have even numbers of each emotion card and at least one per student.
  • Preparation: None
  • To Play: Throw the cards in the air in the middle of your class. Students race to catch a card. Then, they must make a face that matches the emotion on the card they find. Without showing anyone their card, they must try to find another student with a matching emotion card based only on their facial expressions. When everyone is matched up, throw the cards and start all over.

Act it Out

  • Materials: Scenario cards that two to three students can act out.
  • Preparation: Before each round, choose two to three students to act out a scenario. Take them aside and briefly discuss the scenario they've been given (it might be to act out a fight over the swings on the playground, or two students seeing a third crying in the hall, or a birthday party, anything that will require facial expressions and body language to express information).
  • To Play: Have the students mime their scenario in front of the class (no talking). When students in the audience think they understand the scenario and emotions being expressed, they raise their hands. When most hands are up, choose someone to explain the scenario. If right, that person can pick one or two more people to join him as the next actors.

Match the Face Relay Race

  • Materials: You will need at least three large smiley faces (one smiling, one frowning, and one neutral). You will also need pictures showing emotionally charged images (examples: a girl at a party with cake, a boy in a hospital bed looking sad, or a person walking on the beach). Make one image per student separated into four - five sets; number the sets on the back of the images.
  • Preparation: Split the class into equal teams (four to five teams depending on the number of sets you made).
  • To Play: Place a set of images face down at the beginning of each team. In relay fashion, players look at the first image in the stack and race to the smiley face that best describes the emotion in the image. Play stops when the first team has placed all pictures. The players must then explain why they placed the images as they did. Mix up the teams and start again.

Pre-teen Social Skills

Pre-teens are entering hormonal times where it is doubly important for them to be able to respond to social cues. Use these interactive activities to help them with social understanding.

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