Preschoolers are like sponges, which is why it can be easy to forget that even though they are social creatures, that they don’t have the social skills required to mature and grow. These social skills activities for preschoolers are designed to ensure that your child is practicing critical skills for becoming great social creatures.
I know that my preschooler loves to socialize, but when it comes to articulating her feelings, advocating for her needs, or expressing her fears, she doesn’t have the necessary tools to do it. Now, ask her anything about glitter, unicorns, and rainbows, and she can give you a full education.
When we practice social skills with our preschoolers, we are giving them the tools to use in the real world. Just like training for a race, you practice enough times that when it’s time to go, you’re ready.
Social-Emotional Skills for Preschoolers
My daughter is very verbal, but preschooler’s skills and abilities range at this age. That’s why it’s essential to present activities for them to work on their social skills.
Social skills are not limited to just being able to talk, but instead, it’s an overarching idea of how your child behaves during social situations.
This can include:
- Making friends and keeping friendships.
- Listening to and following directions.
- The ability to solve social problems/conflicts.
- Being able to identify their feelings and talk about them.
- Knowing how to work with others.
- Having good manners.
When children can function in social situations, they will experience more peace and success. For example, if you have a hard time listening to directions, then you won’t be able to complete the activity. If you can’t complete the activity, you might have to stay in during recess. If you stay in during recess, then you can’t play with your friends. The cycle continues until it gets out of hand and becomes unmanageable.
So, as a parent, what can you do to help your child develop their social skills? There are tons of activities to do with your child to establish those skills, so we compiled social skills activities for preschoolers to help guide you.
12 Social Skills Activities for Preschoolers that You Can Do at Home Today
There are so many ways that you can practice social skills with your preschooler at home. We’ve compiled some of the best ones to make it easy to implement today.
Social skills activities for preschoolers are a great way to spend time with your child and build their foundation for being effective communicators, great sharers, and emotionally intelligent.
Activity 1: Read with Your Child
Skills Practiced: All
The variety of books is so broad that there is a book for every topic you might want to cover with your child.
Plus, when you read to your child, you can stop and ask questions along the way. “Why do you think that made him sad?”, “Do you think that was the right choice?”.
Another benefit of reading with your child is that you can reference their favorite stories during day-to-day social interactions. “Do you feel like Dino did when he didn’t get the play with the ball?”.
Creating these connections for your child will increase their understanding of many complex social skills they need to know.
Activity 2: Simon Says
Skills Practiced: Listening
A classic game of Simon says is a great way to reinforce listening skills in preschoolers. Anytime a child is playing a game, there is more than just playing happening. Simon Says is a great way to teach kids the skills to be active listeners and react appropriately.
Consider changing the wording to “mama says” or “Ms. Crystal” (if you’re a teacher) so that kids get used to listening to you. Also, give them the chance to be Simon to learn how to use their voices and know what it feels like to be listened to.
Activity 3: Dining Manners
Skills Practiced: Manners
Of course, you don’t have to purchase a toy to teach kids table manners. A tea party, imaginative play, and regular eating times will achieve this.
Families have their personal definitions of table manners, but it can include saying “please”, “thank you”, “no thank you”, asking to be excused, and more.
Activity 4: Happy/Sad Sorting
Skills Practiced: Identifying Emotions
Help kids identify emotions with this simple activity. Find pictures of happy and sad people (this can be pictures of family or even pictures from magazines/online).
Mix the pictures up and have your preschooler sort the pictures into two piles: happy and sad. Social skills activities for preschoolers like this help them understand how visual cues can tell us how a person is feeling.
You can make this activity more challenging by adding different emotions, such as frustrated, silly, etc.
Activity 5: Kindness Action Chart
Skills Practiced: Making Friends
The best way to teach preschoolers about how to be kind is to show them how to do it. That’s why this activity is so powerful to do with kids.
With your child, create a chart of different actions that you can do to show kindness. These things can include:
- Share with someone
- Do someone’s chores
- Give someone a hug
- Help make a meal
- Draw a picture for someone
- Clean up someone else’s mess
- Write someone a thank you note
- Play a game with someone you don’t usually play with
- Donate old toys
- Visit a nursing home.
- Read a book to someone.
- Donate books you’ve already read
- Make someone laugh
- Give someone a high five.
- Push in someone’s chair at school
- Make a picture for someone in your class.
- Help your teacher clean up
- Hold a door for someone.
- Compliment someone.
- Let someone get in front of you in line.
- Write a thank-you note to your teacher.
- Pick up trash and put it in the garbage.
- Leave a nice note in someone’s cubby or locker.
- Read to a younger sister or brother.
- Donate food to the food pantry
- Help a neighbor clean up their yard.
- Let someone else choose (i.e., what TV show to watch, what to have for dinner, what game to play, etc.)
- Leave a thank you note in the mailbox for the mail carrier.
- Volunteer at a pet shelter
- Call a grandparent or other family member just to say ‘I love you.’
Once you have created your list, find opportunities to check off the items by going and doing them.
Kids will love picking out an activity and then going and showing kindness to somebody else.
Activity 6: Gratitude Pictures
Skills Practiced: Identifying Feelings
Working with your preschooler, create a list of things you are grateful for.
This can be done all year-round, though. You could create petals to a flower, spots on a dog, or even ornaments on a tree.
Have the conversation with your child about things in your life that you are thankful to have (a home, a special lovey friend, good health, etc.).
Skills Practiced: Listening to Instructions and Teamwork
Or, if there is a peanut allergy, pass anything!
This is a great social skills activity for preschoolers because it teaches them to listen to rules and work together.
All you need to play this game is a small manipulative (like a peanut in a shell) that the children can pass around.
What You Do:
- Announce that this game’s purpose is to find out who has the peanut.
- Ask the children to sit in a circle, placing their hands behind their backs.
- Choose one child to be the “peanut passer.” With the peanut in his hand, have him go around the outside of the circle, sliding his hands through the other kid’s hands until he decides to pass off the peanut secretly. Make sure he goes around the circle one full time before passing off the peanut.
- As the peanut passer walks around the circle, teach the children the following chant: “Peanut, peanut, where can you be? Peanut, peanut, come to me!”
- Tell the kids to close their hands tightly and keep them behind their backs, even if they don’t have the peanut.
- Choose a child to begin guessing who has the peanut. Keep asking different people until the peanut is located.
- When the child with the peanut has been found out, they should chant: “We found the peanut, he, he, he! Now pass the peanut, but not to me!”
- Then, another child should take a turn passing the peanut. Repeat this until each child has had a turn.
Games like this hinge on a preschooler’s ability to listen to instructions. It also teaches them how to work together to stump the person in the middle of the circle.
Activity 8: Ball Painting
Skills Practiced: Teamwork
This activity is easy to do, and kids love it! Social skills activities for preschoolers should be fun because that means they will be enjoying learning!
This activity requires kids to work together to create a beautiful piece of art.
This activity is great because you can make it as big or small as you want. If there are a couple of kids working together, you can choose something smaller (like a shoebox and golf ball).
Kids must work together to cover the page in paint, and the product is a pretty, unique piece of art.
Activity 9: Feelings Mask
Skills Practiced: Identifying Feelings
For this activity, all you need are felt pieces and a popsicle stick. Using the largest piece of felt, cut out a circle (large enough to cover your face), and glue it to the popsicle stick.
Next, cut out different facial expressions with the remaining felt. This can include a smile, frown, eyebrows, and more.
Working with your child, call out different emotions, and fill the mask to create the face. For example, if you said sad, they would put the frown, maybe tears, and other items to show the emotion.
Get creative! Challenge them to create more advanced emotions like frustrated, excited, and silly.
Activity 10: Accept Help from Daniel Tiger
Skills Practiced: All
While I am not an advocate of replacing human interaction with technology, I believe that technology can be used as a tool for teaching preschoolers social skills.
Daniel Tiger is one of my favorite shows for teaching many social skills that kids need to communicate their feelings and needs. With the use of songs and catchy rhymes, kids will be able to recall tips during high-stress times from Daniel Tiger.
If you would like to be more active while your child is watching tv, ask them questions about watching and learning.
Try to limit your preschooler’s screen time to one mini-episode or full episode a day.
Activity 11: Dramatic, Pretend Play
Skills Practiced: Working with others, making friends, and identifying emotions.
Kids learn how to play together when they are creating games together. So, encourage your child to play using pretend situations. Are she and her friends superheroes trying to save the world? Or a family of elephants traveling across the Serengeti?
When kids engage in dramatic play, they are learning how to control their emotions and overcome disappointment in a safe environment.
Take our superhero example. If your child is playing and is defeated by the villain, she might say, “That’s okay! I’ll try again!” before going on to win the match.
This is good practice for real-life disappointment. If they are playing soccer and are getting frustrated with the process of dribbling the ball, they’ll be able to call upon those pretend experiences as a guide for how they can manage their emotions.
Activity 12: A Classic Game of Telephone
Skills Practiced: Communication
If you are looking for an easy activity with a large group, consider pulling out a round of Telephone from the archives.
The rules are simple; everybody must sit quietly, while the teacher, at the end of a line, whispers a word or phrase into a child’s ear. Then, the children must alternate whispering and listening to the word into each other’s ears until it reaches the end of the line. Once each child has participated, they will announce the word to see if they listened correctly!
Of course, the best in-home activity you can do with your child to develop their social skills is to be a good role model. Kids are always watching how adults navigate daily challenges, and so when we give them a good example, they will learn from us!
Do you have a favorite social skills activity for preschoolers? Let us know in the comments below!