Easy and Fun Ways to Help Children Stay Social While at Home

Jennifer Schmidt

Intervention Specialist | Special Education Adjunct Professor

Beavercreek City Schools | Antioch University Midwest & Wright State University

Parents are wearing so many different hats right now, including chef, activity coordinator and teacher, all while working from home. Trust me, I feel the pain! While I’ve always helped my children with their homework, even as a teacher, this is a whole different level of involvement. All I can say is thank goodness my husband remembers how to do algebra! During these trying times, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with everything extra we have to do and overlook the fact that children need help staying social even during social distancing mandates.

Social Skills Practice

My friend Rilie McKaig, a speech language pathologist, and I realized that while many social skills can be taught in fun and easy ways, most parents don’t have time to design or intentionally implement social skill practice. This is especially true now. When distance learning began, Rilie and I decided to create opportunities for our students to continue to practice their social skills with fun activities they can do in creative ways with family. The exciting part is that as students intentionally practice skills like making eye contact, taking turns and problem solving at home, they can more easily generalize these skills to other settings when life gets back to normal.

Social Skills Development Tool

Rilie and I designed a tool for parents to help their child practice problem solving, perspective taking, body language, figurative language and functional skills. Each child chooses one activity per weekday for a month. This allows them to have choice, get social practice and connect to others.

Note: We have a print-friendly PDF that you can download for use at home. Your child can highlight each box they’re working on, or check them off as they go.

Download Printable PDF

Have your child choose one activity each day of the week for a month to enhance their social skills and pragmatic language at home. When you are playing the games listed below or your family’s favorite games (which are just as good and provide social practice, too), please be sure to prompt your child to:

  1. Wait their turn
  2. Make eye contact when speaking to another person
  3. Use good sportsmanship (e.g., they should congratulate the winner, use positive language, keep a good attitude and not get upset if they don’t win)

To parents or caregivers: Text in italics is information for you.

Problem Solving

Level 1

You want to go outside but it is raining. What should you wear?

  1. Coat and gloves
  2. Rain jacket and boots
  3. Flip flops and a swimsuit

If your child is using an AAC, you can make this a yes/no question by giving the scenario and then asking, “Should you wear _____? Yes or no?”

Level 2

You forgot your homework at home and it is due today. How can you solve this problem?

You are in a new school, and you are not sure where to sit at lunch. You see many people sitting and talking, and you don’t know where you belong. There are some people from your math class that you recognize near the back wall. Where should you sit or what should you do?

All Levels

Finding Nemo

How did Nemo solve his problem of being separated from his dad? How would you have handled being lost and away from your family?

Old Maid
Clue (higher level)

These games provide two different levels of problem solving and can be played by the whole family!

Perspective Shifting

Level 1

Your mom asked you to bring your dish to the sink, and you didn’t do it. This makes your mom feel ________.

  1. Sad
  2. Happy
  3. Angry

Put the above words on notecards (consider adding faces also). If necessary, help guide your child’s hand to point to the answer they think is best.

Level 2

You have been given multiple assignments to complete for school, but you have not turned any of them in. What would be the perspectives of the following people involved: You, your parents, your teacher, your classmates and a friend?

Write down three different perspectives of others for the following social situation: Your mom made dinner, but you did not like the food. When you took your first bite you put your fork down and exclaimed, “Ew, how can you expect me to eat THIS?”

All Levels

A Bug’s Life

Discuss with those in your home how the bugs in town changed their minds about Flik from the beginning of the movie to the end.

Apples to Apples (Family Edition)

In this game the “judge” chooses which card they like. Therefore, each player must think about what the “judge” would pick, which may or may not be what the player likes. Be sure that you use the family edition.

Body Language

Level 1

You feel happy when your mom picks you up from school. When you see your mom pulling up to your school you should ______, so she knows you are happy to see her.

  1. Frown
  2. Smile
  3. Cry

Practice using the appropriate facial expression and identifying it when you feel different ways throughout the week.

Make this a yes/no question by stating the scenario and then asking, “Should you frown when you feel happy?” “Should you smile when you feel happy?” “Should you cry when you feel happy?”

Level 2

Make a video using iMovie or YouTube showing correct body language in a conversation and one video using incorrect body language. Share your video with one friend or person in your home.

Discuss and/or show what your eyes do when you are surprised. Discuss and/or show what your hands do when you feel angry. Discuss and/or show what your mouth does when you feel happy. Discuss and/or show what you look for to know how someone is feeling.

All Levels


When Rapunzel escapes from the castle she experiences many emotions. List 3–5 of them. You may need to rewind this scene and watch it more than once!

Face It

Each person makes a face that acts out something written on the card, and then both reveal it to another person while trying not to laugh. Be sure the cards are appropriate for the age and ability of the participants. This game is designed for teens and adults but can be modified for younger students.

Figurative Language

Level 1

Draw a picture of what it means when someone says it is “raining cats and dogs.” The next time it’s raining hard, be sure to use this metaphor!

This can be a fun activity to do with your child: Consider drawing it literally and then figuratively.

Level 2

Identify whether there is sarcasm in the following examples:

  • You heard a friend complaining about a mistake her mom made, and you said, “Wow! Well, it’s a good thing you’re perfect.”
  • You’re about to start a class assignment and your teacher says, “If you need help, please raise your hand.”

Discuss how to use the following similes/metaphors:

  • Your bedroom is clean as a whistle.
  • I am your shining star.
  • His eyes were like ice as he stared at her.

All Levels

Frozen or Frozen II

Discuss a time when Olaf used figurative language in one of the Frozen movies with someone in your home.


This game helps develop vocabulary. Each player listens to a definition and guesses the vocabulary word. For example, “dried grape” is a raisin.

Functional Skills

Level 1

What is the day of the week?

  1. Monday
  2. Tuesday
  3. Friday

What is the month?

  1. February
  2. May
  3. July

What is the day of the month?

  1. 2
  2. 12
  3. 22

What is the year?

  1. 1997
  2. 2020
  3. 2041

You can make these yes/no questions by asking the question and stating each option: “Is today the ____? Yes or no?”

Level 2

Think about one chore you can do around the house to help a family member and do it without them asking for your help.

Determine three questions you can ask yourself that will help you filter your thoughts. Doing so will help you choose the best time and place to share your thoughts!

All Levels

Inside Out

Name the five emotion characters. Think about a time when you experienced one of these emotions. Which character are you feeling most like today? Why?


In this game you draw a word without talking or giving clues. You can create this game at home with minimal supplies if you prefer not to purchase the game/kit.

In times like these, we all can use fun ways to connect to those in our families and have a distraction from cooking, cleaning and that dreaded algebra!
About the Author

Jennifer Schmidt has spent 23 years as a general education teacher, autism consultant, and special educator. She is currently a high school teacher, a college instructor, and an experienced national and international presenter. Jennifer recently published her first book on the use of peer modeling and other evidence-based practices to teach social skills to students with autism. Jennifer earned a Master of Education degree in Special Education from Wright State University.