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10 Games That Teach Social Skills

What’s inside this article: 10 games that teach social skills to children. Includes how playing games builds social skills, and what skills are learned while playing individual games.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

In childhood, play is the basis of almost all learning. Research shows that play-based learning is more effective than other teaching methods, such as direct instruction.

How Does Play Teach Social Skills?

Through play, children can explore, discover, find meaning, problem solve, and take risks. These are all important aspects of learning and strengthening social skills.

Playing with others helps children learn social cues, listening, perspective taking, turn-taking, sportsmanship, and how to share ideas with others and negotiate if necessary.

With guidance, playing also helps kids learn self-regulation. As kids play, they experience emotions like frustration and anticipation. With the support of an adult, this is an excellent opportunity to practice expressing and coping with these feelings safely and appropriately.

Structured games can also target specific social skills, helping kids hone in on specific skills that need development while also building other social-emotional skills.

Games That Teach Social Skills

One of the easiest ways to turn a social skills lesson into a play-based learning activity is by playing games – board games and card games work well.

There are numerous games available that are designed to teach social skills, but a lot of the traditional board games also have elements that help kids further their social development.

1. Candy Land

Recommended for ages 3+.

Candy Land is a great game for preschoolers because there is no reading required to play the game.

This game introduces younger children to the basic of playing games and a few important social skills:

  • Following instructions
  • Turn taking
  • Sportsmanship
candy land hasbro gaming

2. Guess Who

Recommended for ages 6+

Do you remember playing Guess Who as a kid? This was a favorite of mine. Kids take turns asking yes or no questions about the features of the characters on the cards, narrowing down the possibilities until they can guess which character card the other player has.

This game helps children practice social skills like:

  • Active listening
  • Attention
  • Conversation skills
  • Turn taking
  • Problem-solving
Guess Who - Games That Build Social Skills

3. Hedbanz

Recommended for ages 8+, or Hedbanz Junior for ages 5+

Hedbanz is similar to Guess Who, except you’re wearing a card on your head that everyone can see except you. You ask the other players questions to determine which card you have.

The game comes with a timer, and during your turn you ask as many yes or no questions as you can before the timer runs out. This aspect helps kids practice working under pressure, which many people find stressful.

Social skills practiced while playing hedbanz:

  • Conversation skills
  • Listening
  • Attention
  • Flexible thinking
  • Staying calm under pressure
Image Source: @yawivlogs on Instagram

4. Jenga

Recommended for ages 6+

This is a well known classic. To play Jenga, you must remove wooden blocks from the tower and place them on top, without the tower toppling over.

I like this one for kids because it helps them learn social skills, such as:

  • Patience
  • Self-control
  • turn-taking
  • Handling disappointment or frustration

5. Charades — Recognizing social cues and body language, working as a team

Recommended for ages 4+

Charades is a fun to play game for all ages and helps kids build social skills such as:

  • team work
  • recognizing social cues
  • reading body language.

This children’s version of charades doesn’t require any reading, so even younger children can play. However, you don’t need to buy anything to play charades. You can write different charades on plain paper and draw them out of a basket.

If you’re making your own charades, you can also create cards for different emotions, or different social interactions.

6. Connect Four

Recommended for ages 6+

Connect Four is a personal favorite in our home. If you aren’t familiar with the game, the objective is to create a row of four checkers, while blocking your opponent from doing the same. Players have to readjust their strategy based on the other plays moves, which helps develop flexible thinking.

Playing connect four practices social skills such as:

  • flexible thinking
  • problem-solving
  • turn taking
  • frustration tolerance
  • sportsmanship

7. Battleship — conversation skills, listening and attention, strategic thinking

Recommended for ages 7+

Battleship is a strategy game for ages 7+ (according to Hasbro), but I personally find 7 is a little young to play the game unless your child has a strong number sense because following the coordinates can be a bit tricky.

You play by placing your ships on your grid, then taking turns, calling out plot points, you attempt to locate and sink the other player’s battleship. You can also play this game with a pen and paper – instructions here.

While playing battleship, kids practice:

  • conversation skills
  • listening
  • attention to details
  • strategic thinking
  • flexible thinking

8. Perfection

Recommended for ages 3+

Do you remember playing perfection as a kid?

I’ve heard people describe it as stressful to race to place the pieces into the correct molds before the timer runs out and all the pieces pop out. And that’s due to a combination of anticipation and working under pressure.

That’s also what makes this game helpful for teaching social skills. Kids practice:

9. Apples to Apples Junior

Recommended for ages 8+

Another favorite among my own kids, Apples to Apples junior is a comparison game. Players select a red Apple Card from their hand that they think is most like the green Apple Card played by the judge. The judge selects the winner of the round. Everyone takes turns being the judge.

This game helps children practice important social skills like:

  • Perspective taking
  • Flexible thinking

Since there are no right or wrong answers, the game does a really good job of showing children that different people see things from different perspectives and think about things differently.

10. Dungeons & Dragons

Recommended for ages 12+

Dungeons & Dragons, along with any other collaborative role-playing games, target many more complex social skills. These games are recommended for older kids, but are a play-based way to help your teen or preteen learn social skills and meet friends.

Kids must interact with others, problem-solve, work collaboratively to attain a common goal, and communicate to achieve conflict resolution.

We haven’t tried this one personally (yet), but it’s recommended for social development by experts at Harvard.

These skills can help older kids develop skills that will help them with the more difficult social situations that come up as they approach adulthood.

If you’re not sure which RPG board game to try, according to Above House, these are the 12 best RPG Board games.

One of the best ways for children to learn new skills is through play-based activities. Board games and collaborative games are both great ways to add a play – based element to teaching important social skills.

Playing games helps teach children about sportsmanship, turn taking, problem-solving, following the rules and flexible thinking. Some games also help kids practice listening skills, and conversation skills, too.

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