Social Skills

social-skillsDoes your child…

  • Lack at least one or two close mutual friends?
  • Have trouble winning or losing gracefully?
  • Not show empathy when others are hurt or rejected?
  • Act bossy or insist on their own way a lot?
  • Seem to not be able to start or maintain a conversation?
  • Use a louder voice than most children?
  • Seem constantly ignored or victimized by other children or constantly teases or annoys other children?
…if so, your child may need some social skills training!


Why do we need social skills?


Social interaction is how we act and react around others. Social skills are the abilities needed to appropriately interact with others and create and maintain meaningful relationships. These are important to your child’s emotional health and well-being. Without these relationships, whether they be with their siblings, peers, or even you, your child may not learn and develop the social skills necessary for their future in school, work, etc.

Social Skills Checklist (Pre-K/Elementary):

This list of behaviors is to provide you with a general idea of what social skills are typical for children in pre-k or elementary school. It was modified from a checklist retrieved from

Social Play and Emotional Development
  • Beginning Play Behaviors
    • Maintains proximity to peers within 1 foot,
    • Observes peers in play vicinity within 3 feet,
    • Parallel play near peers using the same or similar materials,
    • Physically imitates peer,
    • Verbally imitates peer,
    • Takes turns appropriately during simple games
  • Intermediate Play Behaviors
    • Shares toys and talks about the activity with peers, even if play agenda is different,
    • Physically and verbally responds to interactions from peers (accepts toy, questions),
    • Returns and initiates greetings with peers,
    • Knows appropriate ways of joining in an activity with peers,
    • Invites others to play
    • Takes turns during structured activities,
    • Obeys game rules,
    • Requests toys, food, and materials from peers
  • Advanced Play Behavior
    • Plays cooperatively with peers during imaginative play,
    • Makes comments about what he/she is playing to peers,
    • Organizes play (suggests ideas to peers on how to play),
    • Follows peer play plans,
    • Takes turns during unstructured activities without a time limit,
    • Offers toys, food, and materials to peers
Emotional Regulation
  • Understanding Emotions
    • Identifies likes and dislikes,
    • Identifies emotions in self,
    • Identifies emotions in others,
    • Justifies emotions once identified (eating because I’m hungry),
    • Demonstrates affection and empathy toward peers,
    • Refrains from aggressive behaviors toward peers,
    • Refrains from aggressive behaviors toward self,
    • Does not exhibit intense fears or phobias,
    • Interprets body language,
    • Uses different tones of voice to convey messages
  • Self-Regulation
    • Allows others to comfort him/her if upset or agitated,
    • Self-regulates when tense or upset,
    • Self-regulates when energy level is high,
    • Deals with being teased in acceptable ways,
    • Deals with being left out of a group,
    • Accepts not being first in a game or activity,
    • Accepts losing at a game without becoming upset/angry,
    • Says “no” in acceptable ways to things he/she does not want to do,
    • Accepts being told “no” without becoming upset/angry,
    • Able to say “I don’t know”,
    • Able to end conversations appropriately
  • Flexibility
    • Accepts making mistakes without becoming upset/angry,
    • Accepts consequences of his/her behavior,
    • Accepts unexpected changes,
    • Continues to try when something is difficult,
    • Ignores others or situations when is desirable to do so
  • Problem Solving
    • Identifies/defines problems,
    • Generates solutions to problems,
    • Carries out solutions by negotiating or compromising,
    • Understands impact his/her behavior has on peers
Communication Skills →
  • Conversational Skills
    • Initiate conversation when it is appropriate to do so,
    • Initiates conversation around specific topics,
    • Asks “Wh” questions,
    • Responds to “Wh” questions,
    • Makes a variety of comments, related to the topic during conversation,
    • Introduces him/herself to someone new,
    • Introduces people to each other,
    • Ends conversations appropriately
  • Nonverbal Conversational Skills
    • Maintains appropriate proximity to conversational partner,
    • Orients body toward speaker,
    • Pays attention to person’s nonverbal language; understands what is communicated,
    • Waits to interject
  • Compliments
    • Gives appropriate compliments to peers,
    • Appropriately receives compliments,
    • Asks for a favor appropriately,
    • Apologizes independently

Social Skills and Anxiety:

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, children who experience anxiety may:

  • Avoid social situations because of fear of being in an unfamiliar setting, fear of embarrassing themselves, or fear of having a panic attack,
  • Run away when uncomfortable,
  • Appear irritable and unapproachable to their peers,
  • Withdraw as a way to manage their symptoms,
  • Have overall discomfort that interferes with the enjoyment of social activities

Social Skills and ADHD:

Children with ADHD may have antisocial behaviors, excessively interrupt others, are impatient, do not share toys, or inappropriately responds to others. According to the National Resource on ADHD, 50 to 60 percent of children with ADHD have trouble with peer relationships.

Social Skills and Autism:

According to the National Institute of Health, those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have continuing social problems that include difficulty interacting and communicating with others. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development listed social behaviors that may be considered red flags for ASD:

  • Doesn’t smile when smiled at,
  • Has poor eye contact,
  • Seems to prefer to play alone,
  • Gets things for him/herself only,
  • Is very independent for his/her age,
  • Seems to be in his/her “own world”,
  • Seems to tune people out,
  • Is not interested in other children,
  • Doesn’t point out interesting objects by 14 months of age,
  • Doesn’t like to play “peek-a-boo”,
  • Doesn’t try to attract his/her parent’s attention

Social Skills and Communication Disorders:

Communication disorders, whether it be a speech disorder, a language disorder, or a hearing disorder (e.g., deaf or hard of hearing), may make social interaction a struggle for children. Those with a speech disorder, such as stuttering, may get bullied by their peers and therefore may develop social anxiety. Children with a language disorder, or the impaired the comprehension of language, may have trouble understanding or expressing verbal social interaction. Hearing disorders may affect how one receives verbal social interaction.

How You Can Help:


Children learn many behaviors and social skills by observing others, so remember to model appropriate behavior! Enhance their social functioning by encouraging cooperative play with their siblings or peers. Tell social stories to your children to help teach them and prepare them for potential social situations. Encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative behaviors with positive and negative reinforcements.

How We Can Help at Play2Learn:

Our team of occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists can help identify your child’s struggles with social participation and help them develop stronger social skills for everyday interaction.

We use the following curriculums in our clinic:

The Social Thinking Program

The Social Thinking Program is a curriculum with educational tools and strategies to help anyone from age 4 years to across the lifespan develop social thinking and skills. 

The Zones of Regulation

This curriculum teaches self-regulation by helping children identify their feelings, identify their levels of alertness, understand how their behavior impacts those around them, and how they can manage themselves.


We also offer the following classes:

Preschool Social Skills

These classes are for children ages 3 to 5 years. They will be able to explore our gym and participate in cooperative play with their peers. Activities are different each week.


Girls Club

These classes give girls aged 6 to 10 years opportunities to explore our gym and interact with their peers during activities such as cooking, arts and crafts, and even salon activities!


Boys Club

For boys aged 6 to 10, these classes allow them to explore our gym and interact with their peers during activities such as team sports or building Legos!




By | 2017-04-27T11:19:43+00:00 March 27th, 2017|News|