What's So Important About Social Skills for Children?

August 05, 2022

Group Games – 8.5.22

Teachers and therapists here commonly use board games and other group games to address social skills that their students need to work on. Games can help improve skills such as interacting and communicating. Students learn to play with others and express themselves.

Today, for instance, Room 11’s crew assembled at the table for their Group Games slot. ‘B” and “J” got the board all set up while the rest of the gang made their way to the table.

Some of the things that students are working on, and you can see in these pictures:

  • Sitting with or near others, and increasing tolerance for others in one’s proximity.
  • Taking turns
  • Staying focused on the goal of the game
  • Being patient when it’s someone else’s turn.
  • Following rules.
  • Losing gracefully
  • Congratulating others when you win.
  • Collaborating in team play.
  • Accepting other games than the one that is your favorite.

Not always the case; these skills have taken a lot of practice and repetition, positive reinforcement and more practice. We’re all really proud of these guys!

Dollhouses, Tree Houses, and Other Play Buildings – 6.17.22

The benefits of dollhouse play are many. Children will learn the names of rooms, and the functions of those rooms, such as the kitchen is where we cook our food, the bedroom is where we sleep. They’ll also work on fine motor skills as they move their action figure or doll throughout the house. Creativity comes into play as they create a story to go with their doll’s actions. Interaction with other children and their dolls makes it an interactive activity for parallel or cooperative play.

Here “A” is enjoying both a tree house and a doll house, side by side, essentially a small village. He is alone at the center at the moment, so shares a doll with the photographer when approached, inviting a play partner. That is a great skill learned this year, in Room 1.

Play-Doh – 3.28.22

It’s squishy, it holds form, it’s colorful, when it comes to Play-Doh, what’s not to love?

Children in Room 5, here, are enjoying centers, and at this particular table, Play-Doh is the activity at hand. You can see Ms. May with students creating pizza slices in many colors. Giving their senses a workout, they are also exercising fine-motor skills and imagination. Most importantly of all, for the purpose of this blog-spot, the interactions within the group are ample: “J” creates a pizza slice and offers it to “K”. She accepts with a “thank you.” She asks “M” what tool he has. He shows his rolling-pin abilities. These conversations are great, since it’s taken the better part of the year to have students learn to work in groups, stay in centers until the time is signaled, and interact with children they hadn’t been with in previous years. Yes, Play-Doh is a smart choice for social skills development!

Blocks – 2.15.22

Blocks are a classic toy and for many reasons, not the least of which is the area of mathematics, including concepts and practice with shape, size, and measurement.

Today we work with a small group of children in Room 1 as they stack and build with blocks of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Children at this age are learning to work and play in a group of children, share and take turns with supervision, and play safely with the toys at hand. The blocks serve well for these group goals and for individual goals such as naming colors, counting, pretending, and gaining fine motor finesse.

Here’s a nice article from https://www.teachearlyyears.com/ that breaks down the benefits of block play for kids!



Pull Toys – 1.27.22

Today we’re focusing on how beneficial pull-toys are for children. The article below, a blog post from MyFourand More.com, breaks it down very well; this type of toy gives children a chance to exercise on both fine and gross motor levels. Pull-toys foster independence and self-control and build muscle and hand-eye coordination.

Benefits of Pull Toys for Young Children

To all of this, we’d like to add that for a majority of our children, toys are not always used functionally, that is to say, our children don’t always use toys – or other items – the way they are intended to be used. Legos lined up instead of connected, for example, cars sorted by color instead of “vroomed”, for another. These types of behaviors with toys are common for our kiddos, and teachers work on teaching their students to play “appropriately” with toys, or as the toys are intended, one toy at a time.

When children make progress with this foundational skill set, the possibilities increase for them to be welcomed into play by their peers. When they leave the nurture of Crossroads, they will be accepted by new friends, able to play with them, and as they grow, learn and socialize with others.

Here we can appreciate “L” a Room 6 student and delight in the fun he is having with a dinosaur pull toy. In his play, he is also using his ability to pretend, (something else that is often a deficit for our kiddos developmentally), by talking to the dinosaur and treating it as a pet of sorts.

1.13.2022 Say “Cheese!”

Eye contact is an important aspect of communication and one that many of our students struggle with. That’s why teachers and therapists work on this with them, teaching and reinforcing children for looking, responding to their name, and showing attention in this way.

Here’s a great article found on SocialProNow breaking down the importance of eye contact. https://socialpronow.com/blog/eye-contact-important/

Ms. McKenzie, Room 4′s Special Education Teacher has sent these pictures capturing some of her kiddos responding to their names and smiling. Say cheese is a great strategy to build eye contact and smiles, because immediately she can show the child his/her picture and reinforce him/her for looking and smiling. Children love to look at themselves on camera, so it is a very natural and contextual form of reinforcement.


6.7.2021 Sound and Tech Toys

If there’s anything kids seem to love, it’s noise-making toys with switches, knobs, and other technological features. There are lots of reasons not to use these toys with babies, but as children get older, this category of toys can help with fine motor skills, problem-solving, critical thinking, and preparing for using technology for other reasons besides play.

Here’s an article we found that readers might find helpful when weighing the benefits of tech toys.  https://blog.sensoryedge.com/8-ways-stem-toys-can-benefit-young-children/

Here, Room 4 included tech toys as a play center. These children were able to transition from the table where there were toy tablets, keyboards, and such, to the rug for playing with dinosaurs. What a great combination for fun and learning.

5.12.2021 Cause and Effect Games

To play Dragon Snacks, you have to wave your hand in front of the dragon’s tummy, get clues from his nose, and reach into his mouth to get the treasure. Think of all of the cause and effect that this game fosters. With turn-taking involved there’s also a bit of competition and teamwork involved. It’s a favorite in Room 3.

Why is cause and effect important? Because children need to know that their behaviors and actions create results. This is conceptual knowledge that is the foundation for understanding concepts in literacy, science, and socialization. Here’s a great video about this subject found at 1to1 Autism Therapy.com.

The Importance of Teaching Your Child Cause and Effect


4.21.2021 Board Games.

Have you been following our #Crossroads21Challenge group on Facebook? It’s been a lot of fun – each month a different classroom decides on a challenge and people can share their pictures and experiences. Getting to know people from different aspects of our community is wonderful. Right now, the challenge is #GAMES. If you head to that group right now, you’ll catch lots of our students playing games in their classrooms. Games are an important part tool for social skills development, and our classrooms select games that are geared to the particulars of the children in the group.

For today, though, we have games in Room 14. These children have been working on games all year. Some of the goals for this group are expanding the repertoire of activities beyond preferred ones, tolerating others in proximity, playing in a group of children, taking turns, and sportsmanship, to name just a few. As you can see, they are doing great on all counts!

2.12.2021 Approaching Others.

One of the things Room 7 works on throughout the year is increasing students’ interactions with others. Whether this comes about verbally, via a P.E.C.S. book, or by use of an assistive device, it is important for children to learn to communicate rather than being dependent upon others to anticipate or guess their needs. So, via games, art projects, one-to-one sessions, and so on, responding to and initiating interactions with others is a big part of their school day.

In this activity, the class made cards for some of the other departments around the school for Valentine’s Day. Then they went on a little walk through the building to deliver them. They knocked on doors, said Happy Valentine’s Day, and interacted as the delighted recipient of their approach thanked them, admired the card, and complimented their work. Getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time, however, was a whole different thing!

2.4.2021 Self Acceptance.

It’s said that self-acceptance is the first step to positive interpersonal relationships.

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves”… Dalai Lama (xiv)

— Dalai Lama (xiv)

 “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” …..Gautam Buddha

— Gautam Buddha

Yet self-acceptance is almost always tricky for pre-tweens; it’s just a tricky time in one’s life. And when special needs are in play as well, social skills – including those with oneself – are further complicated.

That’s why Room 11 works on helping students to value their positive qualities and those of others. By incorporating writing skills, affirmations, and art into the classroom, students are developing social skills, starting with self-acceptance.

The portraits were done by Mr. Joey, TA.

1.19.2021 Playing Games.

These pictures from Room 14 actually go back a couple of months, but today, we want to talk about games and their benefits.

At Crossroads, board games are frequently used to address social skills that students need to work on. Indeed, all children, and even adults, can use board games to improve skills with interacting and communicating. However, many of our students need extra help to learn to play with others and express themselves.

Some of the things that you can see in these pictures from Room 14 include:

  • Sitting with or near others, and increasing tolerance for others in one’s proximity.
  • Taking turns
  • Staying focused on the goal of the game
  • Being patient when it’s someone else’s turn.
  • Following rules.
  • Losing gracefully
  • Congratulating others when they win.
  • Collaborating in team play.

Here’s a great article from Scholastic with even more benefits of playing board games. https://www.scholastic.com/parents/kids-activities-and-printables/activities-for-kids/arts-and-craft-ideas/benefits-board-games.html

9.1.2020 Greeting Others.

Say hello to B. This little guy is here to say hello to you this morning. Something he’s been working hard on has been “opening up” around others: greeting them, exchanging conversation, and answering social questions. Today, he is all smiles, as he confidently approaches and greets some administrative staff during the school-break. He is assisted by Ms. Erene, Behavior Technician.


7.29.2020 Social Skills Development – Back together is where we belong!

For our kiddos, social skills often come hard. Whether a student is working on developing language and communication for interacting with others, or learning how to play functionally with toys, the skills for socialization and play are targeted throughout his/her day by teachers and therapists.

This morning, students in this classroom, Room 3 started their day with hand-washing and snack, and then had play activities, each child working on goals for his own education plan. You’ll notice that each teacher below has a clipboard or two in front of her, and is taking data on the child’s responses or actions on the goals that this setting gives opportunities for. With a variety of toys on the table, this group is working on a plethora of different goals. One boy is working on responding to his peers, another on initiating greetings to others. One is practicing manipulating pieces into a shape sorter, while another is identifying numbers. One is waiting for his turn with a preferred toy, and another is asking questions of others. Teachers are giving directions, or there are natural environmental prompts within the opportunity at hand, and noting the responses that the child makes, then giving further prompts as needed to shape the behavior or response to what is wanted.

It’s very clear that this group of learners enjoys being together again, where they are able to interact with each other, model each other, and have fun as a group.

2.1.2020 Social Skills Development with a new classroom pet!

There’s a new friend in town, and his name is Buster! Room 11 has adopted a dwarf hamster and the students agree that he is a super cute pal. But Buster isn’t just here for his soft fur and cute face; he’s really here to help the children work on skills. What can we learn from a hamster? All sorts of things. Social skills, for instance, like increasing compassion and caring through feeding and watering. Turn-taking, and sharing of responsibility. Talking to him so he won’t be afraid in his new home. Routing him on when he’s running in his hamster wheel. Being gentle and petting him with just a finger, because he is so little.

Buster, we’re glad you are here to help!

3.19.2019 What’s so important about social skills?

Especially when there are so many “important” things, like addition and spelling to conquer. After all, aren’t social skills simply picked up from regular daily activities? They’ll come naturally, right?
From listening to others to taking turns in conversations….. from staying calm with others to asking for help when we need it….. from apologizing to saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome”….. social skills are downright important. And often hard to learn.
Truth be told it’s frequently the case that children learn skills through their experiences, “picking them up” as they go through their days. It’s great when that happens, but it’s not always how it goes. For the majority of the children we serve at Crossroads Center for Children, there is a deep need for more attention to targeted instruction of social skills.
That’s why social skills are continually being taught in our classrooms. All of the classrooms plan play and social activities based entirely on the needs of their students. They set up scenarios and provide opportunities that will help the skills to be “picked up”.
 Wikipedia defines a social skill as “any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization”.
Of that definition, the morsel about the process of learning social skills is pretty important here at Crossroads Center for Children. We aim to help children prepare for success in life. We know from research and 20 years of actual experience with children that time spent teaching social skills has benefits in all areas of their development. Social skills are no small part of life success.  It’s easy to see the connection between social skills and skills in other areas of learning. Social skills can be seen as building blocks for other domains of life and learning. And, online, it’s easy to find articles – both scholarly and otherwise – on the topic of social skills development. Searchers can find abundant reading material specific to children with Autism, children with developmental special needs, and children in general.

While there are variations on the theme of which particular social skills are most important for success in life, most of us would agree that there are levels or stages that children move through. In teaching social skills, parents and teachers wouldn’t expect a higher level skill from a child who hasn’t yet achieved an earlier one. It would be like expecting an infant who hasn’t yet held his own head up to demonstrate the physical control over his body to run a race or play a game of soccer.
Since we have children across the autism spectrum as well as across the even larger spectrum of child development, our teachers and therapists are experts at assessment and evaluation. They are ingeniously able to pinpoint what skills their students have mastered and what needs to be addressed next.  As an ABA school our teachers go about teaching social skills with precision in planning and articulation of what skills are being targeted and what activities, including materials and location as well as other details, will help to bring about those skills for their children.

No two children are exactly alike, and students may be working on skills in more than one level or stage at a time. This is true for kids with Autism and also for children without disabilities who are typically developing peers here for daycare and nursery school.
So some children are practicing non-verbal social skills, such as tolerating being in close proximity with others, or tolerating physical contact. Some are working on verbal skills, like etiquette and manners, as well as conversational skills.  On the other hand, learning to recognize emotions by name, or label the members of one’s family is another important area for social skills development.  Important in order to become aware of one’s own emotions and those of others, and one’s own family.  Students learn about and develop relationships with family and friends. They learn to self-regulate and cooperate and think of the feelings and needs of others.  They develop play skills, and progress from isolate play to parallel play to cooperative play, dramatic play, and general play.

It’s amazing for a child to learn to tolerate the proximity of others when that used to be overwhelming. It’s a precious achievement to learn to ask for a turn, or to be able to enjoy sitting with peers to listen to a story. As it is to learn to ask for a Lego, for a break or some space when needed.  Families who gain family dinner once their child learns to sit at the table share with teachers the hugeness of their happiness. As do the parents of the child who learns to say “thank you” and later learns to spell those same words, to write them and draw a picture for his grandmother who sent him a birthday gift.
Yes, social skills are important in life. We know they are.

Make sure to check out the sister to this blog spot at:

“Want to PLAY?”

The Importance of Teaching Your Child Cause and Effect

OT and PT put the FUN in FUNCTIONAL!UPDATE posts | Annual DARE TO BE DIFFERENT Gala -2022