Children may need a little motivation and some hand-holding to make new friends, interact confidently or understand different perspectives. These useful activities will help them imbibe social skills
By Amruta Deshpande
Yesterday, I had taken my two nieces to the park to play. When we were there, I noticed that one of my nieces was laughing and playing with the children there, while the other was standing quietly in a corner, watching the others play. The more outgoing of the two, Disha, immediately approached the other children and started playing with them, while Diksha was a little uncertain and preferred to play alone with her toys.
As parents, we want our children to be able to interact with other people, make friends, negotiate and stand up for themselves. While some children are outgoing and can mingle more easily with others, a few may need a little help in honing their social skills. So, what can parents do to encourage children to interact with their peers?
Coaxing a shy child to suddenly go out and play may not always work, in fact, it may have the opposite effect; the child may resent being forced to go out. There are various ways in which you can help your little one be adept in social interaction. Involving the child in certain engaging activities that naturally helps her develop social skills, will have long-term results.
Here are some of the activities that can help:
1. Taking turns games – Games that involve taking turns are effective in bringing shy children out of their shell, so it is a good idea to start with such games for preschoolers. For example -- taking turns in pressing the button of a toy phone or toys that have colourful keys on them, rolling/throwing the ball or passing the toys. When children play these games together, they start interacting more easily with other children. Instead of just letting them play side by side, these interactive games can help them make friends with kids their age.
2. Guess the emotion:
In this game, make teams that include both adults and children and collectively decide on an emotion. It can be simple ones such as happy, sad, angry, fearful and so on. Teams can take turns to act out a certain emotion and the other teams must guess what feeling they are trying to act out. Through this game, the children learn body language and facial expression. They also learn how to name a certain emotion. During this game, there is scope for easy interaction between kids.
3. Spin a story -- Children love stories. The more imaginative and colourful the story the better. Get the children together and give them few emotions, like happy, sad, scared, nervous and so on. Ask each child to think about a specific emotion and create a story around it. They can either make stories individually or in a group. After that, it is a good idea to share the story with the others and get feedback from them. The discussion and easy banter will help the little ones develop social skills. These exercises teach children to express their thoughts and emotions. They also learn to work as a team and understand other people’s viewpoints.
4. Group creation project -- Creating something new with your friends is always fun. And when you do it in a big group, the fun quotient gets doubled. Working in a group entails talking, coordinating, and discussing ideas. Form groups of children and give them a big puzzle to solve or some intricate blocks to create a model of their choice. Working together, the children would learn the importance of teamwork and would learn to listen to other people’s thoughts and opinions. Another excellent group project is to create a mural, with each child using his imagination while also collaborating with the other children to produce a beautiful piece of art.
5. Would you rather games -- At this age, children can be a overcritical of themselves and therefore, making new friends can be difficult. One of the ways to get them to interact is get down to their level and play games that they think are cool. ‘Would you rather’ is one such game. Sit all the tweens together and ask questions like, ‘Would you rather be alone on a desert or sit in a class with your friends?’. Instruct the children to come up with fun and inventive answers to the questions. And get hilarious answers from each of them. This game would get them talking and the rest they can do it themselves.
6. Group treasure hunt -- Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? It is a useful tool for children to develop patience, quick thinking, collaboration and respect for another person’s judgement. They also learn to be there for their teammates and not leave them behind. Suggest a game of treasure hunt and hide clues in the form of riddles. Divide children into groups and ask them to look for the riddles and then solve them together to find the treasure. It will be revelation how easily children learn to mingle with each other and hone their social skills.
7. Volunteering -- The teenage years are one of the most difficult for both the children and parents. It can be confusing times while also a time when they want to try new experiences. At this age, they may not make friends or accept friends easily. Therefore, group activities are essential. Volunteering activities allow teens to interact with peers and other people, do some strategising and work together as a team. They can learn the importance of giving back to the society and helping others. Encourage your child to volunteer at an orphanage, old age home or animal shelter. She can even choose to teach underprivileged children or coach them in a sport.
8. Debates -- What better way to get youngsters talking than to engage them in healthy discussions and debates on a topic that interests them? Motivate your teenager to participate in debates at school or in the neighbourhood; this will allow him to interact with other like-minded teens and gain immense knowledge about important issues. Speaking on a platform and arguing for or against a certain topic also boosts children’s confidence and makes them surer of themselves.
From a young age, children watch their elders and learn to hold a conversation, understand an argument and interact easily with others. Activities to hone social skills ensure that they can this smoothly.
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