Today, I wanted to share some social skills activities and specific social skill interventions that can be used to help kids with social emotional learning and the components that help kids with emotional regulation and wellness. When kids struggle with big emotions, anxiety, fear, transitions, worries, outbursts, or social participation… social emotional development can be impacted. And, all we want is to help them by responding to their underlying needs and to support or connect with that individual.
Social Skills Activities
We know that the underlying areas are the root of the “behavior” that we see. The ability to identify one’s emotions, and understand how internal characteristics influence our actions; These aspects maintain a sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy in coping with stress and managing impulses.
The social skills activities listed here are some of the best ways to target emotional regulation tips, tools, and strategies that will give you a jump start in creating connections with your child or student.
Be sure to check out and grab the Creating Connections Toolkit, a massive resource on addressing social emotional learning and emotional regulation. Created by OTs, COTAs, PTs, and educators, this digital resource has everything you need to manage and teach about emotions, help with regulation, mindset, empathy, self-awareness, and family connections.
The Creating Connections Toolkit has 20 products (plus bonus items) and is valued at $197. It’s only $19, making it less than one dollar per resource.
Grab the toolkit here before it goes away on Friday the 10th!
Social SKills Interventions
These strategies are some of the ways to help kids develop social skills and emotional learning:
Social Skills ACTIVITY #1: Role Models
Kids can learn much about social situations including social norms and subtle cues by observing others. That’s why it’s important for parents and families to be a good role model when it comes to self-awareness, awareness of others, empathy, stress management, goal setting, and relationship situations such as preventing and resolving interpersonal conflict or seek help when needed.
Modeling and practicing with children can include many aspects of social skills, including building friendships, kindness, empathy, and awareness of others.
Games and activities that teach self control is one way to begin this process.
Another important aspect is teaching task initiation.
These self-awareness slide decks offer activities to teach about awareness of self and others.
This children’s book and empathy craft is a tool for teaching empathy.
These strategies to teach impulse control can be helpful in modeling activities.
Social Skills Activity #2: Social Stories
A social story is a story that describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms relevant to the reader. I’t provides social cues and perspectives so the reader can respond appropriately. Social stories are reassuring and well-understood by the reader, making them a social skills activity that can be used over and over again. Social stories use pictures and typically are individualized so they meet specific needs of the child and are focused on interests in a motivating manner.
Social stories help children with social skill development because it defines what they should do in a positive manner, while identifying the social expectations which can be frustrating or confusing for some children.
Social stories can be created to address a variety of functional tasks such as potty training or getting dressed. Others are based on emotions and interacting with friends. Still other social stories cover social situations such as wearing a mask when out and about.
Social Skills Activity #3: Group Games
Getting kids involved with group play and group activities is a powerful one in building social awareness, conflict resolution, problem solving, communication, and other important social skills like the critical thinking involved in making decisions.
This group gross motor activity requires a group and also offers sensory input through the proprioceptive and vestibular systems.
Pretend play is another way for kids to practice these important skills in social situations. Whether in a small group or alone, practice occurs through pretend play. Here are some pretend play ideas to get you started:
Using board games is another way to build social skills in a small group. Here are board games to help build skills.
Social Skills Activity # 4: Social Scripts
Social scripts offers a tactic for kids to respond to specific situations. Scripts might be in card format or a prompt that offers a cue. Social scripts can be created for when to do specific tasks like turning off screen time. Other kids may use social scripts for asking a friend to play.
Social scripts are great for kids that read well or can follow verbal prompts. However, some scripts include pictures and images as well.
Social Skills Activity # 5: Video Modeling
Kids can use videos as a motivating way to observe and copy behavior or social situations in action. Some video modeling activities offer kids a way to know how to perform tasks. Others offer opportunities to see social situations in action.
Video modeling can also be used to inform. Kids can watch videos of other children in specific situations and develop awareness of the subtle social rules well as norms. They can learn to empathize with others and take others’ perspectives while building an awareness of self.
Social Skills Activity #6: Self-regulation
By helping kids to better understand their senses and how sensory input impacts their behaviors, thoughts, and offer tools to help kids identify, address, and use strategies to achieve self-control and emotional regulation in a non-judgmental and safe way.
Programs like the Zones of Regulation and How Does my Engine Run offer strategies to impact regulation into every day tasks.
Helping kids understand their senses and how input impacts their behavior, actions, and emotions is a huge starting point for kids to get a handle on social skills.
Social Skills Activity #7: Understanding emotions
Helping kids to better understand emotions is an important step to helping kids understand themselves and how they react to situations. They can then transfer that understanding by better understanding others around them in social situations.
Here is a free printable to help kids learn about emotions and their reaction or behavioral responses.
In this resource on using children’s books and social emotional activities (fine motor, gross motor, art, crafts…) kids can learn about emotions of the main characters as they build the social skills needed to better understand and empathize with others.
While this activity is pumpkin-themed, we used a face and manipulatives to help kids understand and identify emotions and facial expressions. Try this activity with any shape.
A final word on social skills for kids
The main thing to recognize from this list of activities is that it is possible to teach social skills to kids. Some children flourish with one strategy and others will appreciate another social emotional skill activity. Try some of these activities and mix and match others to build a social skills toolbox that will help kids thrive!
Creating Connections, a Social Emotional Skills Resource
Addressing underlying needs= Making a difference.
Therapists know that all of the activities, programs, courses, worksheets, etc. that we use with clients are TOOLS for promoting skills. They are the strategies we use for meeting functional skills. They are the blueprint for helping clients reach goals. They are the means for fulfilling meaningful occupations! The Creating Connections Digital Toolkit is just that: a massive set of tools for addressing the underlying areas needed for function and independence.
This year’s mega bundle of therapy products is focused on social emotional skills, regulation, connection with kids/families, and empowering kids by meeting the underlying sensory needs so that they can learn, play, and connect with others while building the skills they need to be functioning kiddos.
Wow…do our kids need this, right??
As therapists, we strive to focus on the whole child…and all of the sub-layers that play a part in development and growth. We focus on each child individually based on specific needs, strengths, and developmental levels. The connection between the brain, emotional development, sensory input and regulation are the “roots” to everything we do! Focusing on those underlying needs helps the child to flourish in higher-level aspects like being flexible, social participation, using good judgement, responding to feedback, transitioning between tasks, regulating emotions, and much more.
And incorporating those “branches” fosters cognition, completion of tasks, higher-level learning, behaviors, and everything we see!
The bottom-line is that using evidenced-based sensory experiences to improve areas such as cognition, learning, motor performance, etc. is the way to go! Overall, studies suggest that frequent, active participation in multi-sensory experiences can help regulate emotions, improve specific symptoms, address cognitive functions, motor performance, and focus. Research shows us that embedding social-emotional learning strategies within school curricula promotes improved behavior, academic performance, and social skills.
It makes sense! In school an at home, on-task behavior is a required component for student participation. There is a lot to consider…and all of the components work together. sensory regulation, processing of sensory input, filtering out unnecessary input, focusing, transitions…And all of these areas are connected.
The Creating Connections Digital Bundle – A forest of social emotional and sensory tools!
The creators of the products in the Creating Connections Digital Bundle are OTs, COTA, PTs, and educators that will help to create simple routines that fit into a family’s schedule, help parents figure out why their child is irritable or responds in the way they do. The bundle products create a framework for helping kids express worry or address outbursts. It will help them with sensory routines, and find balance in emotional regulation strategies.
The Creating Connections Toolkit includes high-quality, “quick win” resources that will give you what you need right now in the midst of this crazy 2020 world.
If you purchased the sensory bundle last year, this year’s bundle is completely different, and designed to address emotional regulation and connecting with kids.
The entire package is worth over $194, but right now it’s only $19 to pick up your own copy of the bundle. But you have to act fast —it is only offered for for five days! From July 6-10th, the Creating Connections Digital Toolkit is 90% off.
One More Bonus…
AND, There’s more: Because I think this bundle of products is so comprehensive and a tool that I think would benefit any teacher, parent, or therapist…I wanted to add an extra bonus of my own. If you use the link in this email to purchase the Digital Toolkit Bundle, just email me and let me know. I will send over a BONUS including:
- Emotion Video Modeling Set- 20 videos so kids can observe and empathize with real children and identify, model, and express behavioral functioning, social-communication skills and functional skills. Includes a set of questions to help kids talk about their feelings and coping tools that might be used in specific situations.
- Stop and Think Cards– Printable cards to help kids with self-awareness and self-management in a specific situation. Print off a stack of the cards and save them. Kids can go back and refer to their coping strategies again and again.
- Sensory Processing Handbook- Understand the connection that sensory processing has on all aspects of functioning, cognition, behaviors and more. Written in easy to understand explanations so you can explain sensory processing to others.
- Sensory Processing Handbook (Spanish Translation)- The same sensory processing resource in a Spanish version so you can pass on this important information to Spanish-speaking clients and families.
- Sensory Diet Strategy Tools- Use these worksheets and resources to plan out coping tools and a sensory diet that gives kids the input they need to impact behavior, function, regulation, and more.
This OT Toolbox BONUS is worth the price of the whole Social/Emotional Skills Bundle! Here’s all you need to do:
1. Purchase the Creating Connections Digital Toolkit (You are seriously going to love this years bundle!) Grab it here.
2. Email me at email@example.com to let me know you grabbed the bundle. I will send your extra bonus packet over asap!
3. Start using those social emotional regulation tools to improve modulation, advocacy, executive functioning, fine motor skills, self-regulation, emotional control, gross motor skills, coping strategies and more!
Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.