We sure are living in an unprescedented time, when most schools and playgounds are closed, and we are asked to stay at least 6 feet apart. While staying safe is the number one priority for families, our children are missing out on the opportunities for socialization that they are normally exposed to daily. Here are some ways we can continue to develop our children’s social skills during this time of social distancing.
Acting out different scenarios can help children learn the appropriate ways to respond in social situations. For toddlers and young children, this could mean working on social skills as simple as waving and saying “hello” and “goodbye” to greet somebody. Have your child hold a stuffed animal, who he or she can use to greet other stuffed animals as they come out of a box. Act out different situations with puppets, dolls, or figurines and model the right (and wrong) behaviors for them. Focusing on sharing and helping others is a good place to start! Pretend there is only one bowl of food but both farm animals are hungry. Talk out loud as you play with the toys with your child, having the animals explain that they are going to share.
Practice Turn Taking
Whether you have a family of two or a family of five, you can continue developing your child’s turn taking skills at home! Pushing a car back and forth is a great way to work on this with toddlers. Older children can play board games or games like Tic-Tac-Toe to work on their ability to wait and take turns with others. Focus on saying words like “my turn” and “your turn” during these activities to reinforce the concept!
So many parents are currently working from home, or may be on their phones connecting with others more than usual. It’s a great time to teach your chid to minimize interruptions and the most appropriate ways to get somebody’s attention. Prepare your child ahead of time if you are going to be busy. Talk about things he or she can do to stay entertained. You can even make a list or put together a “busy box” with crayons, paper, and simple toys your child can play in while you are unavailable.Discuss or write down appropriate ways to get somebody’s attention if you really need it. That might include things like tapping the person on the shoulder or quietly saying, “excuse me”.
Eye contact shows shared attention and is an important nonverbal communication skill! Read books and play face to face with your child to encourage eye contact at home. Hold toys up by your eyes during play. Engage younger children in games like hide and seek or peak a boo. With older kids you can have a staring contest or play a game where he or she has to guess what you are looking at by “following” your eye gaze!
Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist
Proud Member of The Story Box Family