In early childhood education, supporting a child’s development of social skills through play takes center stage.

As a mom of two, and former kindergarten teacher, I have had the privilege of observing kids learn through social situations.

In this blog post, I will share 15 practical tips to help kids develop the social skills they need to make friends and foster meaningful connections.

Tips to Help Kids Develop Social Skills Through Play

As parents and teachers, we want to see children thrive socially and build strong friendships. 

Making friends is a crucial skill that enhances a child’s self-esteem, communication abilities, and overall well-being.

1. Encourage Social Opportunities

Kids cannot develop social skills without the opportunity to be social with others. This is where it’s up to you to provide an array of social opportunities.

Provide children with opportunities to socialize by organizing playdates, joining clubs or extracurricular activities, and participating in community events.

Exposure to different social settings helps children meet new peers.

2. Teach Empathy

Empathy is the foundation of healthy friendships. If your child can learn to recognize their peers’ feelings, it will further help their friendships and social skills.

Teach your children to understand and share others’ feelings. This will help them develop compassion and build connections based on understanding.

3. Foster Active Listening Skills

Active listening skills are extremely important throughout one’s entire lifespan – beginning in early childhood.

Encourage your children to be attentive listeners during conversations.

Teach them to maintain eye contact, ask questions, and show genuine interest in what others have to say.

4. Promote Inclusivity

Teach children the importance of including others and making everyone feel welcome.

Encourage them to reach out to shy or new children, making an effort to be inclusive and kind.

5. Role-Play Social Situations

Engage your children in role-playing exercises to practice initiating conversations, introducing themselves, and finding common interests.

By doing this, you will help build their confidence in social interactions.

6. Teach Body Language Awareness

When in social situations, kids – even at an early age – can learn to pick up on their peers body language.

Help your children understand the impact of body language on communication.

Discuss the importance of smiling, maintaining open posture, and making eye contact to show friendliness and approachability.

While smiling and eye contact are pleasant body language examples, we should also teach our kids to respect their peers space when they are showing other types of body language.

For example, if their peers are walking or turning away from them, seem slumped over, or won’t interact with others, your child can learn that’s the best time to expect them to play.

7. Encourage Shared Interests:

Encourage your children to explore activities and hobbies they enjoy.

Shared interests create opportunities for connection and provide a common ground for building friendships.

8. Teach Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflict is a natural part of friendships. Teach children how to express their feelings, listen to others, and find compromises when conflicts arise.

This helps them navigate and maintain healthy relationships.

👉 Conflict Resolution Activities for Kids

9. Model Positive Social Behaviors

Children learn by observing you and other adults.

Model positive social behaviors, such as kindness, respect, and good communication, in your own relationships and interactions.

If you are one to get easily frustrated in social situations, then your children will often reflect that same behavior when encountering other kids.

10. Promote Emotional Intelligence

Help your children identify and express their emotions.

Teach them to recognize emotions in others, fostering understanding and empathy, which are essential for forming lasting friendships.

👉 An Emotional Regulation Box Set for Kids

11. Encourage Teamwork

Engage your kids in team activities, such as sports or group projects, where they learn to collaborate, cooperate, and support their peers.

Teamwork can help your kids foster friendships based on shared goals.

A classic sports activity is a wonderful way to build social skills through play.

12. Practice Friendship Skills at Home

Encourage your kids to develop their friendship skills within the family.

Siblings provide an opportunity to practice negotiation, sharing, and conflict resolution, which translate to other social settings.

If the children don’t have siblings, take them to family gatherings and encourage play with other family members.

13. Teach Respect for Differences

Help your children embrace diversity and appreciate differences in others.

Teach them to respect varying opinions, cultures, and backgrounds, fostering an inclusive and accepting mindset.

Although the other kids may not look, act, and speak the same, we want children to accept them for who they are.

14. Develop Social Problem-Solving Skills

Guide the kids in finding solutions to social challenges they encounter.

Encourage them to brainstorm ideas and consider different perspectives when faced with friendship difficulties.

15. Celebrate Small Victories

Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s efforts in making friends.

Recognize their courage, kindness, and inclusive behavior, boosting their confidence and motivation to continue building connections.

Conclusion:

Developing social skills through play and making friends is an essential part of a child’s growth and well-being.

By implementing these 15 tips, you can guide children toward building strong friendships, fostering empathy, and nurturing positive social interactions. Remember, building friendships takes time, patience, and practice.

Before you go, here are more posts you’ll enjoy:

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The Amazing Benefits of Nursery Rhymes in Early Childhood

The Best Electric Bikes for Kids

The Importance of Sensory Play for Young Kids

7 Tips to Engage Kids in Playful Science Experiments

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Social Skills Through Play