Many skills go into demonstrating appropriate behavior at home, school and out in the wider world. Those social skills allow children to know what to say, how to make sound decisions, and how to behave in challenging circumstances now and in the future. The National Association of School Psychologists lists four general skills that help children's behavior: survival skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills and conflict resolution skills. Teaching those skills through games is an effective way to reach children.
Survival skills include following directions and listening. Classic games such as red light, green light and Simon says are excellent ways to teach following directions and listening. To extend the games for older children, you can reverse the directions -- have the children go when you say "red light!" and stop when you say, "green light!" Another game children can play to improve their survival skills is called drum beats, in which they need to move a certain way according to the tempo of a drum -- they need to skip when the beat is fast and crawl when it is slow. You can then increase following-directions skills by changing the moves, either to new ones or having kids skip when the tempo is slow and crawl when it is fast.
Getting along with others can be one of the most challenging aspects of children's behavior. Sharing, asking for permission and waiting one's turn is difficult for some adults. Classic games such as mother may I and follow the leader can help with these skills. Collaborative construction projects, where small groups work together to build anything from a block tower to a play house, can also help interpersonal skills. To make the projects more competitive, you can divide children into teams and time which group can complete the project the quickest.
Problem-solving skills are the most effective way to increase good behavior, according to Scholastic.com. Children need to be able to ask for help, accept consequences, apologize and choose the best course of action. Simple card and board games help with this. Kids can play go fish, CandyLand, Old Maid, hearts, checkers, chess and tic-tac-toe, for example. Role-playing games, in which children use puppets or themselves to act out common problems and how to solve them, are another effective option.
Conflict Resolution Skills
Conflict resolution skills indicate that children can handle peer pressure, teasing and being left out. Role-playing can help children develop these skills as they practice ways to deal with these challenges. Team sports that emphasize good sportsmanship can also help with conflict resolution skills. Video games that encourage players to work together and help each other, such as Super Mario Sunshine or Chibi Robo, can also help students hone their positive behavior.
- National Association of School Psychologists: Social Skills
- Parenting Science: Teaching Self-Control
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: Building Social Skills
- Scholastic: Helping Children Solve Behavior Problems
- Parenting Science: Social Skills Activities
- Iowa State University: The Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behaviors
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