When it comes to teaching my kids about social skills and graces, I know I could do with a little help! It can seem like a daunting task, but remember what the wise and famous Mary Poppins said: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and – SNAP – the job's a game.”
So here are 6 great games to make the job of teaching social skills fun for everyone. Each of these games targets one or more specific skill, such as managing emotions, building self esteem, encouraging conversation, communication and cooperation. They can all be played indoors on the dining room table, or if you live in a warm, sunny place like me, you can grab the picnic blanket and head out to the garden for some fresh air while you play and learn!
Here are some of our favorite games for building social skills:
Firstly, let’s get the emotions under control:
My kids are crazy about Uno, and yours? If so, they will be sure to love this card game which is fast-paced like Uno and the object is to shed all your cards. There are 100 cards, with open ended questions or talking points, giving players a chance to share their feelings and identify what makes them angry. This game gives the opportunity to practice 12 techniques of managing anger effectively. It’s ideal for 6-12 year olds and great for teens and adults too.
Now it’s time to get the building blocks out with this self esteem and communication game:
Remember Jenga? Totika takes Jenga to a whole new level with colorful blocks and matching cards. As each player picks out a block, they answer the corresponding color question on the card. The excitement of keeping the tower standing is a great ‘diversion’ which can help shy kids open up when it comes to answering the questions. Topics relate to self-confidence, achieving goals, overcoming challenges and personal growth. Like all good games, this one can be adapted to suit the level and needs of your players; for example, rebuilding the tower if it falls down too soon, or adapting some of the questions.
This next one is sure to get the conversation rolling:
Sometimes I used to wonder what to talk about with my children, or with their friends. These cubes are great as ice-breakers and for cultivating the art of good conversation. It encourages both speaking and listening, in a way that helps us learn new things about each other without using direct questioning. There is a bit of reading involved, (to read the questions on the cubes) so younger kids may need help with that.
Still on the topic of communication, but with the added benefit of cooperation:
This game appeals to the protective side of our youngsters, as they face the challenge of keeping a little bird, mouse and chipmunk away from the claws of Tomcat Max! All players work together on the same goal, so there’s no competition to win, but rather a united effort to outsmart Max. Anyone from age 5 upwards can enjoy this adventure. Each game is different as you see whether you can manage to keep the Little Creatures safe, or if Max will prevail. Skills being practised include consultation, the use of logic and making decisions. Unlike some other “pointless” board games where you simply throw and move, this one has an exciting twist to keep everyone on their toes.
If your family is into solving mysteries, this next game could be a winner:
This time the culprit is a Fox. But the question is, “Which fox stole Mrs. Plumpert's pot pie?” As with the previous game, players work together to find a solution. They need to identify suspects and collect clues until they are sure which fox is the thief, hopefully before it manages to escape. This game encourages development of deductive skills and logic, as well as cooperation. It’s especially suited for 5 – 8 year olds, although older players could enjoy seeing the glee of the younger ones as they manage to figure things out.
By now I’m starting to feel a bit hungry! Let’s make some stone soup:
With this game you can slip in some healthy eating awareness at the same time as building up memory skills and problem solving. This cooperative game helps players learn to work together to get the job done (namely, cook the soup) before the fire goes out. If your kids are as competitive as mine, this game could show them the joy of teamwork and the satisfaction of winning together (or the consolation of losing together). The average game lasts about 20 minutes and it’s suitable for 5 year olds and above, and 2-6 people can play. Another great thing about this game is that it is completely Green – using only recycled plastics, soy-based inks and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) papers.
And now, if you’ll excuse me – my kids are waiting for me to come and play some games with them!