Children learn through a variety of methods. We know it is important to teach children not only at daycare, preschool, and school, but also at home. Often from a very young age we work with children on learning the ABCs and counting. We also teach our children social and emotional skills at home from a young age, like saying please and thank you, and sharing toys with others.
It is so important to continue teaching children social and emotional skills as they develop. However, teaching social and emotional skills doesn’t have to be formal with your children. Often times children learn social and emotional skills through play. Here are some ways to help your child develop social and emotional skills through play at home.
The first easy way to teach social skills is to just play with your children. Indulge their interests, get down on their level and play with them. This will help to strengthen the bond that you have with your children.
You can help your child follow directions through play by building with blocks together, take turns instructing each other on what to build next. “Simon Says” is a great way to help practice following directions, but again make sure children have a turn to be “Simon”. Letting your child be in control during play can also build the child’s self-esteem.
To build self-regulation and help with impulse control, you can play Red Light/Green Light, everyone must stop when “Red Light” is yelled out, and can move again with “Green Light” is yelled. By listening for the words and responding with their bodies children can connect that they are in charge of their body and their physical actions.
To help children build their emotional regulation skills you can play a variety of games including match games, which are widely available. Encourage your child when they don’t get a match by saying “we can try again” or “good try”. Praise your child for handling the disappointment appropriately. Celebrate turn taking with “You did a great job waiting your turn”.
Two other games that work well for emotional regulation are the board game “Sorry,” and the card game “Uno.” Both are great tools for slightly older kids to learn how to manage disappointment appropriately. When you experience disappointment in the game, model for your children how to handle it. Point out that you might be frustrated, but that you remain hopeful for the next game.
By Alice Boutz, LMSW, Mental Health Specialist