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21 Simple Social Skills Games for Preschool Kids

Building healthy relationships, positive social behaviours and communication skills is an important part of a child’s social development. As with most skills acquired in early childhood, the most natural way to develop them is through play.

There are many social benefits of play, and playing cooperative games can help develop important social skills such as:

  • Taking turns
  • Listening to others
  • Solving problems
  • Being considerate
  • Cooperating
  • Sharing
  • Compromising
  • Negotiating
  • Leading and following
  • Participating in a group
  • Winning and losing gracefully
  • Following basic rules
  • Resolving conflicts

Here are 21 simple social skills games. Many of them are group games and some can be played in a pair. They are suitable for the home and the classroom.

There’s a handy printable of educational game ideas in the Free Activity Pack below, so don’t forget to sign up for that too!

1. Hide and Seek

In the traditional preschool game Hide and Seek, one child counts to 10 slowly while the rest of the group finds a place to hide. The child who is “on” then searches for the other children. 

Little girl hiding her face to count for hide and seek

Once a child is found, they can join the seeker in searching for the remainder of the children. The last child to be found can be the seeker in the next round. 

This game is a great way to introduce children to the concept of playing a game with rules. 

2. Simon Says

Playing Simon Says is a fun way of teaching kids to be active listeners, to follow instructions and take turns.

One child is chosen to be Simon and must give commands beginning with “Simon says” which the rest of the group must follow.

A few examples of Simon Says commands:

  • Simon says turn around
  • Simon says raise your hands above your head
  • Simon says balance on one leg
  • Simon says smile at someone near you

3. Musical Chairs

In Musical Chairs, the children dance to the music and must run and find a chair to sit on when the music stops. One chair is removed in each round so that one person will not have a chair to sit on and will sit out until the next game.

In this classic game, kids have to learn to navigate around each other and share the space in the room. They have to try not to get upset if they don’t find a chair and also be able to lose gracefully. 

The adult guiding the game can help explain to them that some games are played just for fun and that losing is just a part of the game and we shouldn’t take it too seriously. 

4. Emotion Charades

Charades is a great game for teaching children to read facial expressions and body language, which is an important aspect of social interactions.

They can learn to recognize and understand different emotions by taking turns to act out various emotions and having the rest of the group guess what the emotions are. 

5. Animal Charades

Make simple cards with pictures of animals on and children take turns choosing a random card and acting out the animal on their card.  

This game promotes creativity and teaches children to communicate and understand non-verbal cues.

6. Who’s Got the Button?

Playing the game Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button is all about reading expressions and trying to guess who is hiding a button in their hands.

The children sit in a circle with their hands out – palms together – and the adult goes around the circle, pretending to drop a button into each child’s hands, but only dropping it into one child’s hands.

Each child then takes a turn to guess who has the button.

7. Tag

Tag – also called Catchers – is a chasing game that young children love to play different variations of. The simplest version involves one child being the chaser and tagging others by touching them. The person who is tagged becomes the new chaser.

Kids playing a game of Tag outside

Simple games like this can teach children to follow rules and play in a group, preparing them for participating in team sports. They also learn to share a space while running around, taking care not to bump into each other.

In a game like Chain Tag, which is a variation of Tag, as players are tagged they join hands with the taggers and move together as a “chain” to tag other players. This requires a high level of cooperation. 

8. Stuck in the Mud

Stuck in the Mud is another chasing game similar to Tag, that has a wonderful social aspect and fosters positive relationships. Children have to be considerate of others and cooperate to free each other when they are tagged.

To play, one child is “on” and tags the other players by touching them. If they are tagged, they must freeze in position and pretend to be stuck in the mud. They can only be released by another free player crawling through their legs, thus freeing them to run around again.

9. Beanbag Toss

Set up a target, such as a laundry basket, box or cornhole board, and have the children take turns tossing beanbags. 

This game encourages kids to take turns, share and be patient, especially if there are limited beanbags.

10. Telephone

Being able to listen is an important life skill for kids to learn, and they can practise this skill with fun games.

The Telephone Game, or Broken Telephone, is a listening game that requires children to pass a whispered message around a circle while attempting to not distort the message.

Here are a few examples of Telephone Game phrases:

  • Blue bubbles in the bath
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Salt and pepper
  • The king can sing
  • The cat is on the mat

11. Storytelling Circle

Seat children in a circle and tell a collaborative story. The adult starts the story and each child adds a sentence or plot line, taking the story in any direction they choose.

This type of language game fosters creativity, cooperation, listening and taking turns. Kids can build social-emotional skills through telling the story of fictional characters.

12. Catch

Playing a simple game of catch and throw teaches children to collaborate as they have to concentrate on throwing the ball with the correct amount of force and in the right direction, in order for their partner to catch it.

Two little girls throwing a ball

This can also be played with a group of children standing in a circle.

13. Jump Rope

Play a game of Jump Rope where two children hold the rope on either end and swing it, and a third child jumps over the moving rope. 

This will require a lot of coordination and working together and can be challenging for younger kids.

14. Friendship Tower

Provide building blocks and challenge children to work together to build a friendship tower. They must take turns adding one block at a time, communicating and collaborating to build a group structure that represents their shared effort.

15. Copycat

Copycat is a fun variation of Follow the Leader but requires that children guess who the leader is.

Children sit in a circle and one child is sent out of the room. That child will have to guess who the leader is. Choose one child in the circle to be the leader and call the “guesser” back inside.

The leader then performs actions that the whole group copies, while the guesser tries to figure out who is leading all the actions.

If the guesser gets it right, the leader then becomes the guesser in the next round and a new leader is chosen.

16. Hopscotch

Play a game of Hopscotch to teach kids to take turns. They can play the traditional rules of Hopscotch or, if playing with young children, they can simply take turns hopping to the end of the court.

17. Role-Playing

Imaginative play is one of the best ways for children to act out and practise social skills in different social situations and scenarios. It helps them to understand the feelings of others as they pretend play at being other characters and trying out different roles.

A few role-play ideas are:

  • Serving at a restaurant 
  • Doctor and patient
  • Playing shop
  • Being a mom and dad, or family
  • Working in an office
  • Driving a bus or train

Encourage these games by laying out simple props and dress-up clothes and giving children lots of time for free play.

18. Tic Tac Toe

Draw a simple Tic Tac Toe board with chalk outside or on a piece of paper. Playing in pairs, kids take turns adding an O or an X to the grid (each child is assigned either the Os or the Xs) in an attempt to make a row of three.

19. Dominoes

Dominoes can be played in pairs or small groups. While there are standard rules, preschoolers can simply take turns adding a tile to the row with a matching number of dots on it. 

Family playing dominoes together

Another way to play with Dominoes and build social skills at the same time is to get kids to work together standing the tiles up in a long row. Once it’s ready, push over the first tile and watch the entire row collapse. 

This requires close collaboration as the tiles will only knock each other over if they are all placed at the right distance from each other.

20. Scavenger Hunt

Organise an outdoor scavenger hunt by placing children into groups and sending them out with a sheet of paper with images of the items they need to work to find as a team. The teams could compete with each other.

Try a nature scavenger hunt and challenge kids to find materials such as leaves, flowers, bark, twigs, grass, etc.

21. Board Games

Board games are a wonderful social activity for the whole family or for small groups to play at school. Choose simple board games for preschoolers that will teach them to take turns, follow simple rules, learn how to win and lose gracefully, and engage in social games for enjoyment.

I hope you’ll enjoy trying these ideas with your kids.

Here are more social skills activities for preschoolers. 

Kids playing an outdoor game. Text overlay reads: 21 simple social skills games for kids.

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