Activities to help facilitate your child’s social skills:

By Elizabeth Haftl, M.S. CF-SLP and Ryanne Giordano, M.A. CF-SLP

There are 2 parts to social skills:

Interpersonal skills: are the ability to perform competently in social situations which is important for peer acceptance and social adjustment.

Learning related skills: are the ability to self-regulate and act competently in social classroom tasks and learning situations.

In general, children’s interpersonal skills have been linked to social outcomes whereas learning-related skills have predicted academic success.

Social Skills Developed from 0-12 months:

  • Differentiates between tones of voice (angry, friendly)
  • Smiles back at caregiver
  • Follows caregiver’s gaze and demonstrates joint attention skills
  • Participates in vocal turn-taking with caregiver
  • Vocalizes and gestures to get attention and request
  • Plays simple interactive games such as peek-a-boo

By 12-18 months child should:

  • Requests and gains attention by pointing and vocalizing
  • Says “bye” and other ritualized words
  • Protests by shaking head, saying “no”
  • Aware of social value of speech
  • Demonstrates sympathy, empathy, and sharing nonverbally

18-24 months:

  • Uses single words to express intention
  • Uses single and paired words to command, indicate possession, expresses problems, and gains attention
  • Participates in verbal turn-taking with limited number of turns
  • Demonstrates simple topic control
  • Interrupts at syntactic junctures or in response to prosodic cues

2-3 years:

  • Engages in short dialogues
  • Verbally introduces and changes topic
  • Expresses emotion
  • Begins to provide descriptive details to enhance listener understanding
  • Clarifies and asks for clarification
  • Uses some politeness terms or markers
  • Begins to demonstrate some adaptation of speech to different listeners

3-4 years:

  •  Initiates play with other children regularly and participates in make-believe play
  • Participates in simple board games (share and take turns) with minimal adult interaction needed
  • Understands that others can want different things
  • Engages in longer dialogues and terminates conversation
  • Anticipates next turn at talking
  • Uses fillers—such as yeah and okay—to acknowledge a partner’s message
  • Begins code-switching and uses simpler language when talking to very young children
  • Makes conversational repairs when not understood and corrects others

4-5 years:

  • Adjusts the complexity of their communication style depending on the age of their conversational peers
  • Understands and uses humor with their peers
  • Enters a conversation, takes 2 turns on the same topic, changes the topic, and leaves the conversation.
  • Answers questions in school
  • Develops basic understanding of Theory of Mind
  • Shifts topics rapidly

When reading a story choose a book that includes repetitive lines to have your child say

Provide the child if they are nonverbal with a means to say the repeated line at the appropriate time in the story line (Big Mack, using their device, etc.)

 Examples of books with repetitive lines:
  • Pete the Cat books by Eric/Dean Litwin
  • Brown bear brown bear what do you see by eric carle
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess
  • The little caterpillar by eric Carle
  • The Little Old Lady who swallowed a trout by Terri Strout
  • Chicka Chika Boom Boom by Bill Marin Jr.
  • The Little Old Lady who wasn’t afraid of anything by Linda Williams

Choose songs that include repetitive lines to have your child say:

¨  Examples of songs with repetitive lines:

  • Old McDonald
  • Five Little monkeys
  • Itsy bitsy spider
  • Twinkle Twinkle little Star
  • Fire truck song
  • Happy and you know it
  • Wheels on the bus

Board games are great for facilitating social skills:

¨  Variety of social skills can be addressed during these games depending on where the child is developmentally.

  • Sharing
  • Requesting a desired item from an adult and/or peer.
  • Waiting your turn
  • Requesting for a turn
  • Learning to wait for a turn

¨  Board games are also a great way to help expand your child’s language (i.e.: requesting for a specific color game piece) and work on different concepts (i.e.: colors and shapes).

  • Some examples of great board games to play:
  • Cranium Cariboo
  • Pop-up Pirate
  • Candy Land
  • Don’t wake Daddy
  • Hi-ho cheerio
  • Connect 4

Playing with a ball is great for working on….

  • Requesting for turn with the ball.
  • Sharing
  • Grabbing the attention of the intended listener
  • Verbs
  • Child learns to wait for turn

Increasing social skills on the playground…

  • Asking friends to go on tire swing together
  • Asking for turns on bike/cars
  • Touching a picture to request turns on swing, etc. for nonverbal communicators.
  • Play group games:
  • Hide and seek
  • Tag
  •  Jump rope

Elizabeth Haftl has been a speech therapist for 1 year, working in a variety of pediatric settings in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania during her graduate school practicums and as a clinical fellow. She graduated from Towson University in Maryland in May of 2013. She has been with Easter Seals in the Delaware County Division working with children in the Reverse Mainstream, Autistic Support, Multiple Disabilities, and Developmental Delay classrooms. Her favorite aspect of her current job is the ability to create positive changes in the lives of the children she is working with.  Beth loves to kick box and enjoys going to amusement parks.


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