5 Strategies for Promoting Social Skills through Play

If you ask a child today what they like to do for fun, they’ll probably mention something related to a screen. While they’re proficient at handling tablets and video game controllers, many children can be shy and uncomfortable in social gatherings. Even when they’re with their friends, they may revert to their screens as a group, because that’s where they’re happiest. Technology has made the world smaller, but people may be drifting further apart.

As the children grow older, their lack of social skills may make it difficult for them to adapt to new environments. They need to be confident when interviewing for college and being a team player is mandatory to maintain a good job. Just like kids are taught how to tie their shoelaces, they need to learn how to communicate properly with others. Once they know how to balance between listening and talking, they’ll be set for life.

Strong social skills don’t just help individuals, but they also help the community to live together in harmony. Warm and friendly individuals can be better at resolving conflicts and helping each other in times of need. As a member of the community, you need to prepare children to make the next generation happier and healthier. It’s not as difficult as you may think. Just follow the tips below so kids get opportunities to brush up their social skills while having fun.

1. Create Safe Spaces

Many parents keep their kids indoors due to security concerns. That can be a genuine problem. However, the solution isn’t to keep kids indoors, it’s to create safe spaces for them outdoors. By installing swing sets in the community center, you can bring together families from around the neighborhood. The kids can enjoy themselves in the fresh air, while parents can mingle and learn more about each other.

If the weather isn’t favorable, you can create a little play area indoors at a park district or rec center. Playing together teaches children about trust and teamwork. Add a box of props and costumes so the kids can use their imagination and share their dreams with others. Even if there are some bullies around, that can help teach kids to stand up for themselves. With adult supervision, many problems can be fixed proactively, and kids can learn to play together.

2. Encourage Collaborative Games

Some kids are natural introverts and prefer to play alone with their blocks. While this is also acceptable, encourage them to participate in group play as well. Some kids enjoy running around playing tag, while others prefer working on an art project together. Whichever mode they choose, let your child talk to other children without you by their side. Let them navigate through social dynamics themselves and find solutions on their own.

Enroll your child in a junior sports team, to improve their physical activity and social prowess. Being in a team allows the child to understand their strengths and weaknesses and lets them learn from others. Sometimes watching their friends excel is the motivation they need to try harder. They learn to cooperate and compromise, developing empathy and respect for others, which are life skills everyone needs.

3. Promote Emotional Intelligence

Many child psychiatrists keep toys in their offices as their patients often open up when they’re busy playing. Talk to your children while they’re playing to understand why they are socially aloof. Allow them to explore their feelings and teach them how to express themselves appropriately. By developing emotional awareness, they’ll be able to understand others better and create meaningful connections for the future.

To understand others, kids need to pick up on body language cues and non-verbal communication as well. Use games like emotional charades to demonstrate how people react when sad or angry. That’s a great way to teach a life lesson while having fun. Different kids may respond differently, so emphasize the importance of listening to different viewpoints with an open mind.

4. Celebrate Diversity

Exposure and acceptance of different cultures are essential for a tolerant and respectful community. Take your child to places where they can interact with other children of various cultures, religions, and languages. You can promote inclusivity through books and games that introduce different ways of living as well. Keep reminding the child of all the things they have in common, so they focus on similarities, not differences.

Children are curious by nature and may have questions about others who are differently-abled. Encourage them to befriend such children so they learn to adjust the rules of the game to include everyone. Don’t forget to mention that not all disabilities are visible. Cultivate empathy and encourage them to set a positive example for others by helping those who have special needs.

5. Lead by Example

Children love to copy adults. So, the best way to encourage behavior is to practice what you preach. Show them how to disagree politely and resolve conflicts with kindness and grace. Play board games that include negotiation like Monopoly and Risk to show them how to find mutually beneficial solutions. Start from home and make sure siblings can overcome their differences and build healthy relationships.

Another important lesson that games teach is playing to have fun, not just to win. Show them that participation matters more than awards by enrolling yourself in local sports teams as well. When the kids see you interacting with others, they’ll learn to be more trusting and open to meeting new people.

The habits made during childhood are often the strongest, so utilize this golden period to cultivate a healthy mindset. Children who are shown tolerance and acceptance can grow up to be confident adults who make social connections easily. You’ll give children a superpower that benefits their personal and professional lives as well as the community they live in.

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