Using Games to Build Social Skills Is All Fun and Games:
In the Social Butterflies Club social skills groups, the children are engaged in game play often. Many parents ask, “Why? My child plays video games all day long. That is what he is able to do. He is not able to interact socially with his peers.” Rhonda Osisek, Speech-Language Pathologist, explains that children play games in her social groups because there is so much more to playing a game than just having fun! Some parents don’t realize that engaging children in non-video games build:
- Team-building abilities
- Ability to following multi-step directions
- Cognitive language skills such as making inferences and predictions.
- Executive functioning skills such as planning, initiating, follow through, and modifying the plan as needed
How do these skills help with life skills?
These skills are crucial real-life skills that children with social communication disorder often have a great difficulty achieving. These higher-level cognitive skills are required for pre-vocational and vocational tasks as well. For example:
- Interacting with customers in a friendly manner
- Making eye contact
- Using appropriate language when speaking with adults versus children
- Interacting in formal and informal situations such as with a boss versus a co-worker
- Negotiating skills in terms of conflict resolution.
Gameplay addresses many if not all of these skills, especially in team building activities.
Team building builds social skills
Playing games is also helpful in team building. Here’s how it works:
- During a team-building exercise assign a “group leader” or “team captain” who has to choose an appropriate peer for the tasks in the game. The child has to use their cognitive skills to find a peer that they relate to or choose the peer that is best for that task.
- Then, they have to “compromise” to decide who will go first and who will go second, etc. Team captains also assign tasks or delegate based on knowledge or predictions about peers. For instance, in a relay race, the team captain needs to decide who is the fastest runner. That person will likely go first. Or, when we complete team crossword puzzles the team captain will decide who is the best writer and assign the task accordingly.
- Additionally, they have to follow the assigned rules of the game and stay within their roles they agreed upon. All while being sure to cooperate with others who are playing the game and demonstrate appropriate emotional regulation and control whether they are winning or losing.
- At the end of the game they must acknowledge other players and show good sportsmanship by using the appropriate words body language and emotions.
After explaining to parents that their children “played games,” they can see that we did much more than just have fun. Fun is just a bonus and sometimes is not even part of the process.
In the Social Butterflies Club Program, some of our favorite games to play are Apples to Apples Junior® because it uses higher level language skills. There is one version called Big Picture Apples to Apples®, which requires the child to look at a picture make an inference or prediction and correlate that to the given word. We also like “Minute to Win It” games because they require the child to be up and moving or doing a task which most children would rather do than sit. We modify the “Minute to Win It” games to incorporate a team activity and require two people to participate in the activity. We also play games such as Don’t Break the Ice® which works on turn-taking as well as basic sportsmanship,. Hullabaloo® is another great game that targets following multi-step directions and sharing space with others.
Find more information about the Social Butterflies Club here.
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