Social skills – this is a tough subject to tackle.
Even for parents of neurotypical kids.
Because kids are not born inherently knowing how to behave in social situations.
When you add in the extra challenges that neurodiverse children face, it makes it all the more difficult.
Luckily, board games are a fantastic way to spend quality time as a family while teaching kids crucial people skills they’ll use for life.
Board games bring out a whole bunch of feelings – good and bad alike.
And game nights give your child the opportunity to explore those feelings in a safe, low-key environment, surrounded by the people who love them most.
Here are 5 ways to teach social skills while playing board games with your kids.
This can be a tricky skill to teach. Kids are impatient and they want what they want and they want it NOW.
Having to wait until it’s their turn again can be difficult. Meet this feeling with empathy and communicate with your child that you understand how hard waiting can be. After they see everyone else is waiting their turn too, it will get easier.
Positive peer pressure for the win!
No, board games are not the equivalent of team sports, but this is a great lesson easily taught through gameplay of any sort.
Board games can be competitive and tensions sometimes run high. It’s easy for our kids to confuse the frustration they have toward what’s happening in the game with anger at the people they are playing with.
We have to help them separate out the two and recognize that a game is just a game and relationships are what’s important.
Not all board games teach teamwork, but there are plenty that do.
There are a lot of games that are either cooperative in nature or can be played in teams. Teaching kids to come together with others and work toward a common goal is a skill they’ll use in school, friendships, work settings, and even marriage.
Be sure to include games that encourage teamwork in your family game nights.
This is a hard one. No one likes to lose – not even grownups.
But, it’s important that they realize not everything’s going to go their way all the time. When kids don’t learn this early on, it’s so much harder as they get older and come to this conclusion on their own.
Teaching kids to accept defeat and move on is not something we look forward to as parents. We don’t want to see them disappointed. But, struggle builds resilience.
It’s what we do after that’s most important. Do we pick ourselves up and keep moving forward?
That’s a skill we want our kids to have.
Lastly, it’s so important that kids learn to win with grace. When we win, the natural reaction is to gloat.
It’s fun to celebrate victory, but it’s important to teach our kids to be mindful of others’ feelings.
No one likes a bragger!
By making your family game night a weekly tradition, you are creating memories you and your children will cherish forever. Pick a night that works with everyone’s schedule, mark it on the calendar, and make it happen.
Playing the same games over and over can get boring – for you and your kids. Change it up and add new games to the rotation and keep kids coming back excited every single week.
Make it fun. Set out a variety of snacks to keep everyone fed and happy. You can vary it up each week or pick a few snacks your family loves and keep them stocked and reserved for game night.
Sure, social skills are important. But, you can relax knowing that just by hanging out and playing games with your kids, they are learning so much. Even more important than the social skills they’re learning is the valuable time you are spending together as a family.
Kids don’t come with instruction manuals.
Parenting is hard.
We want the best for our kids. We want to make sure we give them all the skills they’ll need to become kind, compassionate, contributing members of society.
People skills are part of what we’re responsible for teaching them. Some might say this set of skills is one of the most important things our kids will learn while in our care.
Thankfully, by spending intentional time with them, they’re learning more than we could ever sit down and teach them out of a book.
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