Ways to develop your child's social skills in lockdown

Published: 06/08/2020

With schools, nurseries, playgrounds and summer camps across the country having been closed since March, many children have seen their chances to interact with others vastly limited, consequently restricting opportunities to develop all-too-important social skills such as listening, attention and cooperation. However, while these traditional methods of social interaction are currently unavailable, early year development experts have been working throughout lockdown to offer them alternative ways to interact with others.

To understand exactly what these alternatives were, myTamarin reached out to teaching assistants (TAs), a child psychologist and parents across the globe to hear how they’ve continued to work on these key skills when the opportunities to do so aren’t obvious.

Here’s how you can improve your child's social skills while still in lockdown.


As well as being both affordable and accessible, reading is one of the best ways to develop basic communication and social skills in children. 

Whenever you read to your child, they need to pay attention and actively listen in order to keep up with the story, occasionally participating if the book is interactive and invites them to engage. Reading with others is a great way for children to learn how to behave in a group, encouraging them to speak loudly and clearly to address their peers, as well as making sure they share the book fairly and wait until it is their turn to speak.

One of the TAs we spoke to told us that she regularly reads with the children in her care over Zoom, making sure that the children are taking turns and listening to one another. 

Watch films where friendship and family is central to the plot

Story content can also provide multiple examples of strong relationships between families, friends and neighbours as well as demonstrating how they all interact with each other. One parent we spoke to told us how she and her six-year-old would watch films where the plot is centred around these themes, citing Frozen and Finding Nemo as their favourites! 

By simply witnessing the interactions between the characters in the stories, your child will pick up on the traits and habits of the “good guys” and the “bad guys” and see how each character’s actions affect their outcomes. Children are more likely to mimic the “good guys” who save the day and get the happily ever after, than the “bad guys” who are banished from the kingdom forever.

Get performing!

Has your little one ever sat you down to watch them sing, perform a magic trick or act out a scene with a sibling or some friends? If so - encore! Giving children the chance to perform not only builds up their self-esteem, but helps them to improve their verbal communication skills. 

One TA told us how one of her students made a virtual presentation for his classmates, entirely taking control of the session as he communicated his passions to his peers. At the end, he was able to monitor the audience’s reactions and would engage with others to take and answer their questions.

Drama performances are also a good way to get your child building up their confidence and communication skills. By actively getting involved in the story, they see exactly what actions make the hero “good” and the villain “bad”. For example, while the villain is cold, calculating and selfish, the hero is kind, generous and friends with everyone. 

Costumes are a great way to get into character, so consider getting the kids a superhero cape or a golden crown in preparation for your next trip to the living room theatre.

Encourage role play with toys

Much like the point above, role play allows children to act out scenarios with toys and imaginary friends. Popular role playing examples include hosting tea parties, where children will have conversations with the “guests” (usually consisting of a teddy bear, some dolls, a couple of imaginary friends and, if they’re particularly persuasive, an adult) and share food and drink around the table. Not only does this give children the opportunity to practice interacting in social settings, but it’s also great for developing fine motor skills!

To encourage them to start role playing, bring the scene to life by buying and making your own props. Children have extraordinary imaginations, so you don’t have to worry about splashing out - with the flash of a wand, a plastic watering can becomes a kettle, and some pillows on the floor sets the scene for the fanciest restaurant in London!

To get you started, check out our video on how to make your own doily.

Go outside

Going outside may not always guarantee sunshine, but it does promise fresh air, exercise and the chance to play some outdoorsy games.

These outside activities are a great way to get children to work together towards a common goal. Scavenger hunts are a great way to do this in lockdown - hide some objects around the garden and write down a set of clues that will point them towards the buried treasure. To make it a group activity, you can video call other family members or friends to help out with the clues!

For more outdoor activity ideas, check out myTamarin’s outdoor activity recommendations.

Get them to help out around the house

Not only does getting your little ones to clean up after themselves mean keeping your house tidy, but it also gives you a chance to teach them valuable social skills. 

Activities such as cooking and cleaning require adult supervision, so must listen carefully to instructions and collaborate with others to make sure they aren’t repeating the same steps. One child psychologist recommends gardening as a way to teach children empathy, as this tasks them with nurturing and growing their own plant. 

Engage with family and friends on a regular basis

Above all, making sure your child speaks to a wide variety of people is one of the best ways for them to develop social skills. According to the child psychologist we spoke to, not only does it boost their self-esteem, making them more confident and outgoing, but it also develops a foundation for developing physical communication skills, such as eye contact and body language.

One way to do this is to get your child to check in with their friends or family members via virtual platforms, such as Zoom or Skype. This helps them to build long lasting relationships when the opportunity to interact in person isn’t there and encourages them to maintain contact post-lockdown too.

Getting in touch with family members, while great for developing these relationships, can also be great for learning other valuable skills. One parent we spoke to told us that her children had baked cakes with her mother and played with their mother-in-law’s dog all via video calls, showing that even at a distance you can still make great memories!

Write a letter

Another way to improve your child's communication skills is through letter writing. While the added benefit of visual and verbal cues mentioned in the point above are limited to the written word, writing a letter challenges children to communicate in a clear and concise way, all the while improving their spelling and grammar. Plus, everyone loves a letter!

One parent told us how her children wrote thank you letters to key workers, sending them to fire stations and hospitals, as well as leaving messages of hope for the neighbours when going out on their daily walks. Even in lockdown, we can still show our children how to be kind to others.

Here at myTamarin, we strongly believe that children need constant love and support from many different sources to grow and develop into socially competent adults. That’s why we say it takes a village to raise a child.

For more expert tips, click here to join our Academy today for lessons on health and safety in the home, coronavirus care and more.

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