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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 imbibe social skills
One day I had taken my two nieces to the park to play. 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 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 child 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 to develop social skills:
1. Taking turns games: Games that involve taking turns are effective in bringing a child 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 colorful keys on them, rolling/throwing the ball, or passing the toys.
When children play these games together, they learn to be patient and to practice self-control. Interactive games help them make friends.
2. Guess the emotion: In this game, form teams that include both adults and children and collectively decide on an emotion. You can choose 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 the emotion being enacted.
Through this game, children learn about body language and facial expressions. They also learn how to recognize a certain emotion. During this game, there is scope for easy interaction among children.
1. Storytime: Children love stories. The more imaginative and colorful the story the better. Get the children together and ask each child to think about a specific emotion and create a story around it. They can also do this in groups. After that, it is a good idea to share the story with others and have a small discussion around it. The discussion and easy banter will help the children communicate freely.
These exercises teach children to express their thoughts and emotions. They also learn to work as a team and understand other people's viewpoints.
2. Group play: Creating something new with friends is always fun. And when they 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 helps children learn the importance of teamwork and 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.
1. 'Would you Rather' game: At this age, children can be overcritical of themselves and therefore, making new friends can be difficult. One of the ways to get them to interact is to 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 gets children talking and the interactions will follow.
2. 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 judgment. Children also learn to be inclusive and supportive of their teammates. Plan 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 solve them together to find the treasure.
The game helps children learn to cooperate with teammates and thus hone their social skills.
1. Volunteering: The teenage years are often viewed as a challenge for both the children and parents. They can be confusing times while also a time when they want to try new experiences. At this age, they may sometimes feel left out of circles of friends. Volunteering activities bring together teens who have common interests and allows for interesting interactions as they work towards doing fulfilling work. Even as the teen's social skills improve, she can learn the importance of giving back to 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.
Interacting with a variety of people helps a teen understand people and develops empathy and caring.
2. Debating: What better way to get youngsters talking than to engage them in healthy discussions and debates on topics that interest them? Have mock debates at home with your teenager before you motivate him to participate in debates at school or the neighborhood. 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 topic boosts a child's confidence and shows him how to be sensitive and respectful of others.
Group games and activities help children learn to hold a conversation, appreciate points of view in an argument, and interact respectfully with others.