child lacks social skills

Talking about social challenges is never easy. For most mamas, the dread of how to begin keeps us from having the conversation at all. Research shows that playing and interacting with others builds executive function skills, content knowledge, and creative thinking—all important skills that are just as important for preschoolers as for middle-schoolers.

So why is it so difficult to encourage socialization? How can mamas encourage little ones to communicate— especially in an overscheduled, screen-ridden environment?

Here are 10 phrases to say that will help your kindergartener hone their social skills:

1. "What does it mean to be a good friend?"

Don't be afraid or timid to talk about friendship. By doing this, we are teaching our children to be good friends. Ask your child, "Who do you know that is a good friend to you?" and "How were you a good friend today" to spark conversations.

2. "Who are you playing with these days?"

Explore what your child is doing for fun and who they enjoy playing with at school and during their free time. Take the perspective of curiosity, but don't leap into a lecture if you get a response you don't like—just gather information.

3. "If you could change one thing about your friendships, what would it be?"

Positive parenting is about exploring and asking the right questions to get kids to think differently. In doing so, it's important to ask little ones to reflect on their relationships (good and bad) so they can understand how they want to engage in social situations. To do this, refer to something your child has said about communicating with others. Start with, "I keep thinking about a conversation we had the other day, and you said you dread social stuff because it's hard for you."

4. "Everyone is working on something. Do you want to hear what I am working on?"

Sharing a personal story or a lesson you've learned about socialization can be a source of inspiration for your little one. Share your personal challenge, then suggest, "What if we each pick something hard and we work on it together. I think it might be good to work on your friendship skills. What do you think?"

5. "You often complain about Jenny and how she treats you. How would you like her to treat you?"

Listen to the way your child describes social disappointments. Just listen—don't jump in to correct them or argue. You can simply acknowledge what you're hearing and follow up with, "What makes you frustrated about Jenny?

6. "What are you doing well as a friend? What can you do to be a better friend?"

Allow your child to consider their role as a friend. Rather than telling them what they are not doing, allow them to contemplate and problem solve. Also, if your child is in second or third grade, allow them to explore their assumptions about social life and friendship in general.

Do they believe they'll never have friends? Do they believe it's not worth trying to befriend someone? Some responses could include, "What makes you say that? How come? Tell me more."

7. "What are your specific strengths? What makes something easy for you?"

Everyone has different strengths. Help them understand what they are good at and what it means to be able to have social intelligence. Follow up with, "Who do you know who is good at the same things? Who do you know that is smart about social stuff?"

8. "Did I ever tell you about my experience with friendship at your age?"

You can share an example from a friend's child, or you can share a friendship from your past, telling it with detail. Doing this helps open your child's thought process.

9. "I hear you say that a lot. What do you mean by that?"

Listen to the way your child describes themself in the role they believe they have in their peer group or family. Comments such as, "I'm always the one who gets in trouble," "I'm just the funny girl," "I'm such a loser," or, "They're just stupid," show an underlying story or narrative they are telling themselves.

Ask them about those statements or comments they make to help them think about their relationship with others.

10. "I notice you didn't talk to anyone at karate yesterday. I am curious how come?"

If your child isn't a talker or able to find the words to express himself, you can say, "I notice..." and share an observation or an image. Ask if they agree or disagree with your perception.

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With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


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