Social skill games for kids

20 Evidence-Based Social Skills Activities and Games for Kids

Oct 14 2020

Positive Action Staff

SEL Articles

Activities and games for socialization are a great way for your child to learn how to behave around their peers, no matter if he is a toddler, preschooler or if he just started kindergarten. Games can teach skills like taking turns, managing emotions, and reading body language.

Use these evidence-based social skills activities to help your child build their social behaviors and learn how their actions affect others. With these games, they can become more independent and maintain healthy relationships throughout their lives.

1. Staring Contest

Many children have trouble maintaining eye contact in conversation. A staring contest can help kids make and keep eye contact in a way that allows them to focus on that task, rather than trying to communicate simultaneously.

If your child still feels uncomfortable, you can start smaller. Place a sticker on your forehead for them to look at and then build toward having a conversation.

2. Roll the Ball

It’s never too early to start building social skills, and a game of roll the ball suits children as young as toddlers. Kids take turns rolling a ball back and forth between them, laying the foundation for other social skills.

Kids learn to carry this skill into taking turns in conversation or when doing joint activities. They also learn self-control by aiming the ball toward their friend and rolling it hard enough to reach them yet with limited force.

3. Virtual Playtime

Sometimes, your child can’t have play dates in person, but they can still spend time together over video chat and other online spaces. Video chats help kids make eye contact by looking at their friend on the screen.

Learning to adapt to new situations becomes a valuable trait, whether with social distancing or in their future workplace. Coming up with new ways to spend time together increases problem-solving abilities, which adds to a set of vital social skills.

4. Emotion Charades

Emotion charades involves writing different emotions on strips of paper. Your child picks one out of a hat or bucket. Then, they must try to act out that emotion.

Emotion charades can help children learn to recognize emotions using facial and body cues. You can even adapt social skills activities like this to create a game similar to Pictionary, where children draw the emotion.

By depicting and acting out emotional expressions and reactions in social skills activities, children learn emotion management, which plays an important role in creating positive relationships and communicating feelings.

5. Expression Mimicking Games

When you play this game with your child, you're teaching social skills with expressions. Mimicking your expressions allows your child to understand what certain expressions mean and recognize them when others make them in real conversations.

When kids with social challenges learn to read facial expressions, they become more comfortable in situations involving them.

6. Topic Game

You can play several variations of the topic game, but the most common one involves choosing a topic and naming things that fit into that category using each letter of the alphabet. For example, if you choose animals as the topic, you might come up with:

  • A: Aardvark
  • B: Baboon
  • C: Chicken

The topic game teaches kids to stick to one subject and follow directions until they complete the activity. It also helps them make connections and get creative with letters that have fewer options.

7. Step Into Conversation

Step Into Conversation is a card game made for children with autism. The game presents structured social skills activities, like starting a conversation and talking about specific subjects based on cards.

The game helps kids learn how to talk to others appropriately and carry a conversation with perspective and empathy. It teaches good manners and self-control by showing them how to politely enter a conversation, when to talk, and when to listen.

By using socialization games like this one, you give structure to conversations to develop the social skills necessary to handle different situations in their daily life.

8. Improvisational Stories

Many children tell stories even outside of intentional social skills activities. With improvisational stories, you add another challenge that requires them to collaborate and create a narrative without thinking about it beforehand.

For this activity, place cards with pictures or words face down. The child picks three of these cards, and they must include these objects or topics in the story they tell. The game ends when all the cards are gone, or the kids reach the end of their story.

You can use this activity as a multiplayer game where children take turns adding to the story and building on each other’s ideas, or one child can tell you their own story.

9. Name Game

With this simple game, kids roll or toss a ball to someone after they call out their name. Social skills activities like this one work well for helping even toddlers learn their peers’ names. It shows that they are attentive to others, and it’s a step toward getting to know other people.

10. Simon Says

Simon Says builds social skills for kids' self-control, listening, and impulse control as they copy their peers' movements and follow instructions. It also helps keep the attention on the game and rewards good behavior for those who follow the rules throughout the game.

11. Rhythm Games

You can incorporate rhythm games as a social skills activity both at home and in the classroom. These music-making games let your child be creative while following directions and recognizing patterns.

A 2010 study by Kirschner and Tomasello shows that joint music-making helps social behavior. In a game where children must “wake the frogs” with music, the researchers found that kids who followed the rules by making music were more likely to help others who tried waking the frogs with non-musical means.

12. Playing with Characters

These social skills activities involve tapping into your child’s natural tendency to play. Using stuffed animals or dolls, you can interact with your child through the toys.

Having conversations through toys teaches kids to recognize behaviors and communicate their feelings. They practice their social skills through the toys in an imaginary, low-risk environment, without worrying about the toys’ hurt feelings.

13. Play Pretend

Kids will typically create a scenario in which they pretend to be someone or something else. For example, they might play house and take on the roles of parents, become a doctor, veterinarian, teacher, or cashier. Each of these situations allows them to explore different social skills activities.

As they pretend to parent another child, for instance, they must learn to recognize and respond to emotions, deescalate situations, and adapt to new situations.

14. Token Stack

You can adapt token stack from board games like checkers to create social skills activities that teach children how to have a considerate conversation. Every time the child speaks and responds appropriately, they add another token to their stack.

They face the challenge of trying to stack their tokens as high as possible while taking turns speaking. This activity makes them focus on having a calm conversation and giving thoughtful responses to questions and statements.

15. Decision-Making Games

Social skills activities like decision-making games come in many forms. By using strategy games or activities as simple as sorting and matching, your child learns persistence, thoughtfulness, and cooperation with others.

These games help kids with indecision, as they ask the child to make a choice, even if it’s not right the first time. It demonstrates low-risk consequences and encourages them to try again if they make a mistake.

16. Building Game

When children work together to build something, like a tower using blocks, they must communicate, take turns, and understand each other to bring their creation to life.

Kids will work together to come up with a method to build their item. When they apply it, they learn to try again if the creation falls and celebrate each other’s unique abilities when they finish the project successfully.

17. Community Gardening

Community gardening works differently than other social skills activities in that it teaches children to nurture a living thing.

Gardening with others increases social competence by having your child take care of something and learn responsibility, as they cannot neglect their plants. This activity also gets kids outdoor and can help calm them.

18. Team Sports

Children can participate in team sports through their school, on a recreational team, or even play with friends in their backyard. Team sports show kids how to work together toward a common goal and keep their focus on the game.

They also learn to recognize emotions, like when someone gets hurt or scores a goal, and react appropriately when they win or lose.

19. Productive Debate

A productive debate works well for older kids to learn how to manage emotions and work on positive expression, even in challenging situations. They learn how to have difficult conversations calmly, without turning them into an argument or trying to insult the other person.

People who can debate and listen to their opponent develop more of the skills needed to become leaders in the classroom and workplace.

20. Scavenger Hunts

During scavenger hunts, children work together to find objects or get a prize at the end of the activity. By working toward their goal, they learn teamwork, organization, and positive decision-making. They can choose to split up, move as a group, and collaborate to reach the end of the game.

They also get rewarded for cooperating. These activities help them with creative problem-solving abilities by making up clues for other players to solve.

What’s Next?

Using evidence-based social skills activities and games helps your child build social skills while doing something they enjoy. You can adapt any of these activities to something that engages your child and allows them to get creative with their socialization.

However, activities and games can only go so far. The Positive Action social skills curriculum is designed to work in tandem with activities like these and more to help your child identify their self-concept and shift this introspection to their social interactions. We feel social skills start within.

Explore our sample lessons for even more ways to encourage your child’s social-emotional learning, or contact us to find out how our program can improve your child’s social skills and have fun doing it today!

Social Skills Games for the Kid-Friendly Classroom – Proud to be Primary

17 kid-friendly social skills games to use with kids in the classroom to teach communication, friendship, listening, emotions, and kindness! 

Social skills games are great for teaching kids important social skills. Games that teach listening, friendship, and even making eye contact are effective options. When you use games to teach social skills, you make learning them a more enjoyable experience.

Social Skills Games for the Kid-Friendly Classroom

Looking for social skills games to play with your class? You’ve come to the right place! Here are some kid-friendly social skills games to teach listening, emotions, kindness, and more.

Social Skills Games for Listening Intently

Listening is a vital social skill that everyone needs to learn. It is an important skill not only for the social benefits but also for educational reasons. Good listeners tend to make friends more easily. It’s because they pay attention and their friends know they are valued. Additionally, listening in the classroom helps students learn concepts with less effort.

1. The Telephone Game – You can play this game with small or large groups of kids, making it perfect for the classroom. To play, have kids line up or make a circle. Whisper a sentence to the first person, and have them whisper that exact sentence to the next person in line. This will continue until the sentence gets to the last person. That person will then announce what they heard to the entire group. Kids are always amazed at how the sentence changes! Use this as a lesson to teach kids that listening is important so that the meaning of what they need to know is not lost.

2. Listening Mats – Another great way to practice is to have kids work on listening by following instructions. Listening Mats provide this type of practice in a practical way for the classroom. Kids follow directions as they color and draw on a scene. Kids will have a blast showing off their creative sides, all while practicing an important social skill! Check out the bundle of Listening Mats that includes activities for each month of the school year! Click here to get a free sample!

3. Don’t Interrupt Card Game – For the social skills card game, kids play in pairs and take turns reading and answering a question. The other person must pay attention, not interrupt, and respond with a related question after. This game gets kids really practicing good conversation skills! Find this game and more for building friendship skills HERE.

Social Skills Games that Teach Emotions

Kids need to be aware of their emotions and what they mean. Teach them how to recognize emotions – Describe them, what they look like, and why they might feel a certain way. These social skills games provide alternative ways to teach emotions.

1. Emotional Bingo – Kids can begin to recognize emotions and what they mean by playing Emotional Bingo. This social skills game is played exactly like traditional Bingo, with the only difference being that emotions are displayed on the Bingo cards instead of numbers.

2. Emotions Scavenger Hunt – Make a list of emotions that you want kids to spot. Type them as a checklist and print out. Kids then go on an emotions scavenger hunt throughout the school day. They check off the different emotions they see during that time, including the name of the person with that emotion.

3. Emotion Dominoes – This domino game is terrific for teaching emotions. On each domino, you will find an illustration of an emotion. They need to be matched to the real-life photo on a different domino. This social skills game will help kids recognize facial expressions for different emotions.

4. Emoji-tions Card Game – This fun card game teaches kids to identify the emotions represented by different emojis. Kids take turns asking for specific emoji cards in order to make matches. It’s a modern Go Fish game! Find it as part of the Emotions unit for K-2.

5. Express Yourself Board Game – This board game is also included in the Emotions unit for K-2. Kids travel around the board while answering questions and acting out scenarios about emotions.

Social Skills Games for Practicing Eye Contact

Eye contact is an important social skill that many kids aren’t naturally good at. Kids should learn that during a conversation, whatever they’re looking at is perceived to be important. If they’re talking to a friend, but staring at their phone, that friend will think that they’re not paying attention to them. Because eye contact is so important during social interactions, you can use these games to help kids practice.

1. Eye Pointing Game – You’ll want to start playing this social skills game one-on-one or in small groups. To introduce the game, start by selecting two objects to place on the table. Use your eyes to look at one of the objects and see if someone can guess which object your eyes are “pointing” to. Discuss with kids how our eyes communicate information. As kids become familiar with this game, expand it by looking at a more detailed space.

2. Look in My Eyes Train Engineer – This social skills game is available to download on an iOS device. With Look in My Eyes Train Engineer, kids practice making eye contact as they play the game. They won’t even know that they’re learning an important social skill as they explore different train sections.

Teach Good Communication with these Social Skills Games

There are two aspects of communication that kids need to learn: verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication has to do with the words that you say. Whereas non-verbal communication is how you communicate with your body and your facial expressions. These two social skills games will help kids develop both verbal and non-verbal communication. Precisely, by working in teams to achieve a goal.

1. Charades – Communication isn’t just about the words you say. Your body plays a major role in how you communicate. Help kids develop non-verbal communication skills by playing a few rounds of charades. During this game, one person must act out a phrase, using only their body to communicate. They are not allowed to speak. The others on their team must try to guess what that phrase is.

2. Blindfold Obstacle Course – This game is perfect for small groups of kids. Simply set up an obstacle course. One person will be blindfolded while the rest of the group works together to communicate how to get through the obstacle course.

Social Skills Games for Friendship

Teaching friendship skills through social skills games is helpful. With the help of social skills games, they can develop the skills necessary to look at friendships and decide if each one is a positive friendship to have.

1. Friendship Similarities – To play this game, kids take turns announcing a fact about themselves. When someone announces a similar fact, kids in the room jump up and say “Me, too!” if that fact applies to them. They should begin to notice how others are similar to them, helping them connect and develop deeper friendships with those around them.

2. Friendship Jeopardy – This is an online game that kids will love to play. To play Friendship Jeopardy, kids from each team select a category to answer, including such topics as relationships, “fakeships,” and manners.

3. Friendship Bingo – Spend some time teaching kids the qualities one looks for in a friend. Define those terms together and then play Friendship Bingo to practice. Descriptions of friendship qualities are read aloud and then those words are found and covered on the Bingo board. It’s Bingo with a social skills twist! Find this as part of the Relationship unit for 3-5.

Social Skills Games that Encourage Kindness

Kindness is a social skill that all people (not just kids) should learn. When you teach kindness to kids and embody this trait yourself, you’re guiding them to achieve their greatest potential. When teaching kids to be kind, you’ll want to help them understand what being kind actually is. Kindness games can help you achieve this goal!

1. Kindness Cards – This social skills game is easy to get started! Simply brainstorm with your students ways to be kind or use the kindness task cards. Inspire ideas such as smiling at someone, giving a hug, or sitting with someone new at lunch. Kids play this game by selecting a task card or idea from the list and completing the task. Encourage them to complete as many tasks as possible each day. Find the Kindness task cards as part of the Kindness unit for K-2 or make your own set with kids.

2. Acts of Kindness Challenge – Read this post that describes how to encourage children to show kindness to each other by using a challenge as a motivator. Kids love a challenge, and it will be almost like a fun game to play over an extended period of time! You can even use the printable calendar included to you keep track.

Build Social Skills with these Resources

Teach children in K-2 the most important lessons in life when they need it the most with units and activities on emotions, self-regulation, growth mindset, empathy, and social awareness, friendship, kindness, respect, and responsibility. Click here to learn more!

Want to build a peaceful classroom filled with respectful, confident, and kind kids that can build relationships and communicate effectively? Then this SEL curriculum for 3-5 is for YOU! Click here to learn more!

More Activities that Build Social Skills

Free Week of Morning Meeting

Try social-emotional morning meetings in your classroom with this FREE week-long resource! It includes editable PowerPoint and PDF slides, printable cards, and instructions on how to use. Click the image below to grab a copy.

Emotional Skills Books and Videos for Kids

Friendship Activities

Emotions for Kids


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Games for the social development of the child


Knowledge base

5 socialization games for preschoolers

  • Draw the picture game
  • Role play
  • Mirror Game
  • Game "Guess the emotion"
  • Improvisation game

The social development of a child is one of the most important tasks not only for teachers from the early development center, but also for parents. After all, it is in the family that the baby receives the first communication lessons, learns to interact with adults and peers, and receives behavior patterns that he will use in the future. We offer great games and ideas for a home toy library that will develop communication skills in a preschooler. nine0003

Draw the picture game

This simple game comes from children's art therapy. The first participant draws some kind of squiggle or figure on the sheet, the second one completes the drawing with one detail, the third one also draws something and so on in a circle. You can play together, it will also be interesting. This game helps the child learn to work in a team and shows how something new is created as a result of joint activity.

Role play

From the age of two, kids can play role-playing games, and by the age of 3-4, this becomes the main activity of children. Games help the child explore the world, try on role models seen in the family or kindergarten. That is why early childhood development centers and toddler development centers often use such games to develop social skills. But in a home toy library for children, it is also useful to play with a child. Play with dolls, cars or plush animals situations that cause difficulties for the child, and teach him to interact with others correctly. nine0003

Mirror Game

Two participants stand opposite each other. One - the leader - begins to make movements. The other - "reflection" - repeats them synchronously. This exercise comes from children's choreography and acting, but it is used in leadership schools for children. It teaches you to feel a partner, work effectively in pairs and develop communication skills.

Guess the emotion game

Choose a book and start reading it with your child. It is important to choose books by age, their list will probably be given by a teacher from the child development center. Ask the child to guess the character's emotion. Try not to say the name of the emotion out loud. For example, if it says "he got angry," change it to "he frowned and stamped his foot." Ask your child why the character is experiencing this particular emotion? What does he feel now? Is he good or bad? How could you help him cope with feelings and is it necessary? nine0003

This game very well develops emotional intelligence - a necessary component of the complex development of the child. Such children feel the interlocutor better, make contact easier and communicate more effectively.

Improvisation game

If your child attends a children's theater studio, he is probably familiar with this exercise. If not, it's time to get to know each other. Write topics on pieces of paper and put everything in an opaque bag. Invite the child to pull out one piece of paper. Read the topic. Invite the child to talk about it for 1-2 minutes. Such a game teaches the child not to be afraid of new topics and not to avoid communication in the company. nine0003

Here are some examples of topics for discussion:

  • My favorite toy;
  • My friends;
  • The children's center that I go to;
  • What will I be when I grow up;
  • My favorite creative activity;
  • Why you need to go to school;
  • Where did I go in the summer.

Topics should be selected in accordance with the age and development of the child. However, it is also useful to offer reasoning topics, for example, “Why it snows in winter” - this develops creativity and speed of thinking. nine0003

The Imena Production Children's Development Center invites your children to study. The Child Development Center is a great place to improve your child's communication skills, no matter how shy or humble they are. There is an acting school for children in our center, where pupils are taught not only acting techniques, but also the ability to hold their own in public, the ability to improvise and not get lost in any situation. And in the business school for children, the child learns the life hacks of business communication, the correct behavior in disputes and conflicts, and the ability to negotiate. This is also important in the framework of comprehensive development and will be beneficial in everyday life. nine0003

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Games for the social and personal development of children | Material on the topic:

Game for acquaintance and greeting - “Caps”. Children are invited to say hello and get to know each other in an unusual way. To do this, the facilitator distributes wooden sticks and several caps made of colored cardboard to the participants. Participants should pass the caps with chopsticks to each other (to whom they wish) and at the same time say: “Hello! My name is ... ., to answer when taking the cap, “I am very pleased! ”, do not touch the caps with your hands. nine0003

Game “Touch to...” The teacher offers: “Touch the blue! ". All children must instantly orient themselves, find something blue in the participants' clothes and touch this object. Colors change periodically, who did not have time - the leader. The teacher makes sure that each participant is touched.

Compliments game. The rule is not to repeat. Children, looking into each other's eyes, wish the neighbor something good, praise, promise, admire and pass the flashlight from hand to hand. The receiver nods his head and says: "Thank you, I'm very pleased. " nine0003

Good Animal game. The host says in a quiet, mysterious voice: “Please stand in a circle and hold hands. We are one big good animal. Let's hear how it breathes. Now let's breathe together! On the inhale we take a step forward, on the exhale we take a step back. And now on the inhale we take two steps forward, on the exhale - two steps back. This is how the animal not only breathes, its big kind heart beats just as evenly and clearly, a knock is a step forward, a knock is a step back, etc. We all take the breath and beat of the heart of this animal to ourselves.” nine0003

Magic candy game. Show a box with a lid. Shake it, the children must determine by ear what is there. It's actually candy. But they are not simple. As soon as you eat them, you will turn into wizards and you will be able to wish all people something that they can become joyful from. Let's think about what we can wish for all people who live on earth...

Examples of children saying:

• may they get rid of diseases

• may they all live long

• let everyone have a home

• let everyone live together

• let everyone be happy

Headball. Children, breaking into pairs, lie on their stomachs opposite each other. A ball is placed between their heads. Touching the ball with only their head, they try to stand up and pick up the ball from the floor. When children learn to cope with this task, the game can be complicated: increase the number of people lifting one ball up to three, four, five people.

The game “Stand up all those who ...” The host gives the task: “Stand up all those who ...

- likes to run - enjoys good weather,

- has a younger sister - likes to give flowers, etc.

If desired, the role of leader can be played by children.

After completing the exercise, the children are asked questions summing up the results of the game:

- Now we will see who in our group turned out to be the most attentive. Which of the guys remembered who in our group likes sweets? Who has a younger sister? etc.

“Hands are getting to know each other. Hands quarrel. Hands are reconciled. The exercise is performed in pairs with their eyes closed, the children sit opposite each other at arm's length. An adult gives tasks (each task is completed 2-3 minutes): - Close your eyes, stretch your hands towards each other, get to know each other with one hand. Try to get to know your neighbor better. Put your hands down. nine0003

- Stretch your arms forward again, find your neighbor's hands. Your hands are quarreling. Put your hands down.

- Your hands are looking for each other again. They want to reconcile. Your hands make up, they ask for forgiveness, you part as friends.

Discuss how the exercise went, what feelings arose during the exercise, what did you like more?

"Artist of the Word". Each child in turn thinks of someone from the group and begins to draw his verbal portrait - his external features (and, if possible, internal, psychological), without specifically naming this person. The rest of the children try to guess who it is. nine0003

"I'm good - I'm bad. " Children are invited to draw a picture, a self-portrait, on which both their good and bad qualities should be drawn. If the children are at a loss, then you can talk with them about what qualities they consider to be bad and which are good and why. How can you draw bad quality, but how good? What color can they be and what shape?

Find a friend. The exercise is performed among children or between parents and children. One half is blindfolded, given the opportunity to walk around the room and offered to find and recognize a friend (or their parent). You can find out with the help of hands, feeling hair, clothes, hands. Then, when a friend is found, the players switch roles. nine0003

Mittens. For the game, mittens cut out of paper are needed, the number of pairs is equal to the number of pairs of participants in the game. The host scatters mittens with the same ornament, but not painted, around the room. The children are scattered around the room. They look for their “pair”, go to a corner and, with the help of three pencils of different colors, try, as quickly as possible, to color the mittens in exactly the same way.

“Roar lion, roar; knock, train, knock." The host says: “We are all lions; big lion family. Let's have a competition to see who can growl the loudest. As soon as I say: “Roar, lion, roar!” Let the loudest growl be heard. nine0003

“Who can growl louder? Roar well, lions." You need to ask the children to growl as loudly as possible, while depicting a lion's stance.

Then everyone stands one after another, placing their hands on the shoulders of the person in front. This is a steam locomotive. He puffs, whistles, the wheels work clearly, in time, everyone listens and adapts to the neighbors. The locomotive travels around the room in different directions, now quickly, then slowly, then turning, then bending, making loud noises and whistling. The driver at the stations changes. At the end of the game, a "crash" may occur, and everyone falls to the floor. nine0003

"Walk along the stream." A brook is drawn on the floor with chalk, winding, now wide, now narrow, now shallow, now deep.

Learn more