Raising a kind and competent child is a challenging skill. However, practicing social skills activities for preschoolers can significantly impact their early development.
As children age, they discover much about themselves, their peers, and their environment. When equipped with the appropriate social skills, they’ll find that they can efficiently work together, solve problems, and achieve their goals.
What are Social Skills?
Social skills describe how we communicate with one another. They are critical for sharing ideas, resolving conflict, and achieving success in personal and professional settings. Social skills encompass various abilities, such as verbal communication, nonverbal communication, listening, empathy, conflict resolution, and cooperation.
Why are Social Skills Important for Preschoolers?
Social skills are important for preschoolers because a stronger sense of identity makes them confident and less dependent on their caregivers. As children of preschool age foster new friendships, they discover unique characteristics about themselves and develop self-esteem.
Healthy social skills are also linked to academic success. Studies show that social skills better gauge how well a child will perform in school than IQ tests [*].
Types of Social Skills for Preschoolers
Children learn to become more aware of others’ feelings and actions at preschool. The following skills are critical for children as they interact with their peers.
Preschoolers are like little sponges—they soak up verbal and nonverbal communication abilities wherever they go. Play is a preschooler’s primary mode of communication. Budding skills might include learning to share, taking turns, and cooperation.
Preschoolers are easily distracted at this age but learn to listen and respond to others. They are also highly imaginative, using storytelling to convey their feelings.
Collaboration and Teamwork
Preschoolers may not be working on corporate projects, but they're honing the foundations of collaboration and teamwork through play and social interactions.
Most preschoolers engage in parallel play—playing alongside each other without deeply interacting. As they become more familiar, they become more collaborative, working toward a common goal through imaginative play.
Empathy and Emotions
During this age, preschoolers start to develop empathy. They may not fully grasp someone else’s perspective, but they can identify feelings and comfort peers they recognize are upset. Children of this age may also recognize why someone is upset, understanding that losing a game or tripping in the playground can upset someone.
While they are better at identifying emotions, preschoolers may express them with much intensity, such as laughter, tears, and tantrums.
Problem-Solving & Conflict Resolution
Adults play a crucial role in helping preschoolers navigate conflicts. Teachers and caregivers often act as mediators, guiding them through understanding each other's perspectives and finding compromises.
Preschoolers can engage in simple negotiation. For example, they might tell another child they want to play with a specific toy now and will share it later. They might also nominate themselves as leaders in classroom games.
With well-developed social skills, your preschooler will practice excellent conflict resolution skills as a teenager.
20 Social Skills Activities for Preschoolers
Consider these 20 preschool social skills activities to improve your child’s communication, collaboration, and empathy.
1. Roleplaying Games
Roleplaying environments, such as a shop or a classroom, give children unique opportunities to “run a business,” be a leader, and learn to cooperate. Don’t hesitate to get immersed with the props—tea sets, cash registers, shopping carts, and more.
2. Arts and Crafts
Get your preschoolers to create a collaborative art piece like a sculpture or mural. They’ll learn to take turns and listen to one another’s input. Certain crafts, like paper chains, can help them develop fine motor skills.
3. Emotion Charades
Acting out and guessing emotions can demonstrate to preschoolers how vastly feelings range. How one preschooler expresses sadness may not be identical to how another experiences it.
4. Simon Says
Simon Says is an excellent tool for training a preschooler’s listening skills. One Simon dictates commands, such as “Simon Says touch your nose.” Players shouldn’t follow the command without the signature “Simon Says” phrase. Assign a different Simon per turn.
5. Storytelling Circle
Create a circle where each child adds a sentence to a collective story, inspiring them to exercise their imagination.
6. Cooking Together
Involving young children in cooking activities emphasizes working together to achieve a common goal. Simultaneously, it equips them to handle chores at an early age. Start with simple recipes like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
7. The Telephone Game
This game tests communication and memory skills. A player starts by whispering a message to the player next to them, with the second player whispering the same message to a third player. The game ends when the message returns to the first player.
8. Tower of Cups
This game aims to see how high the group can stack a tower of cups without falling over. Children will learn valuable planning and cooperation skills.
9. Jigsaw Puzzles
Critical thinking can never start too young. Jigsaw puzzles may be challenging but are ultimately rewarding when children work together. Ensure that you provide age-appropriate puzzles.
Songs are an excellent vessel for imparting essential lessons to children, such as manners, friendships, and respect. Go for classics like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” with a mix of newer songs.
11. Thank You Circle
End each day with a gratitude circle in which children share something positive about their day, what they are thankful for, or a compliment for one of their classmates. Gratitude circles foster supportive classroom atmospheres.
12. Scavenger Hunt
Promote teamwork by planning a scavenger hunt in the classroom or the playground. Get creative with unique themes like a color hunt, in which students find objects of each color in the area.
13. Feelings Chart
Help your child become more aware of their feelings by asking them to identify how they feel at the beginning and end of each day. Use a feelings and emotions chart to help them visualize.
14. Classroom Jobs
Promote a sense of responsibility by assigning students simple classroom jobs. For example, you can make rotations for board erasers, put someone in charge of the lights, or have a few students push the chairs in at the end of the day.
15. Story Time
Reading to children keeps them stimulated and reinforces their listening skills. Read engaging books highlighting socialization, emotions, and everyday activities similar to your preschooler's experiences.
16. Friendship Bracelets
Have your preschoolers craft friendship bracelets to exercise their creative side. They can think about who they want to give their bracelets to and why, reflecting upon positive relationships and demonstrating gratitude.
17. Communication Styles
Some preschoolers will find it harder to communicate than others. Some may be dismissive, while others might be too aggressive. Use our handout on communication styles to understand better how your child is comfortable conversing.
18. Puppet Show
Start a semester-long project by planning a puppet show with your students. Encourage them to collaborate on a story and inspire their creative juices by letting them create their own puppets. Then, stage the show at the end of the year for friends and family.
19. Rhythm Games
A 2010 study demonstrated that joint music-making amongst children promoted positive social behavior [*]. Work together to write a song, asking your students to alternate using various musical instruments.
20. Community Gardening
Studies have proven that being in nature increases creativity, reduces stress, and inspires togetherness [*]. Give your preschoolers plants to care for to inspire a sense of care and responsibility.
The Bottom Line
Developing social skills in preschoolers can be a smooth process. With these evidence-based activities, the learning process can be effective and enjoyable.
Don’t forget to use our social skills handouts and worksheets, as they can be excellent tools in the classroom and at home.
- DeVries JM, Rathmann K, Gebhardt M. “How Does Social Behavior Relate to Both Grades and Achievement Scores?” Frontiers in Psychology, 2018.
- Kirschner S, Tomasello M. “Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children.” Evolution and Human Behavior, 2010.
- Kruger J. “Building on Partnerships: Reconnecting Kids With Nature for Health Benefits.” Health Promotion Practice, 2016.