10 Activities to Practice Social Skills for Children with Autism

Social skills are essential for building meaningful relationships and navigating various social settings. For children with autism, developing these skills can be challenging. Games are often an effective and engaging way to help children with autism practice and improve their social skills. These games provide opportunities for children to mimic, practice, and understand social interactions in a fun and supportive environment.

Discover activities that are designed to help children with autism enhance their social abilities. Each activity focuses on various aspects of social skills, including communication, listening, empathy, and cooperation.

Echo Clapping

Echo clapping is a simple yet impactful game to improve listening and imitation skills. The facilitator starts by clapping a short rhythm, and the child repeats the exact pattern. This game helps children focus on listening carefully and reproducing what they hear. 

How to play

  1. Sit facing the child and make eye contact.
  2. Clap a simple rhythm (e.g., clap-clap-pause-clap).
  3. Ask the child to repeat the same rhythm.
  4. Gradually increase the complexity of the rhythms as the child becomes more confident.

Echo clapping not only helps with auditory processing and attention but also provides a foundation for understanding turn-taking and non-verbal communication cues, such as eye contact and body language.

Follow My Lead

In this game, the teacher or parent performs a series of simple actions, and the child mimics them. These actions can range from touching their nose to jumping up and down. This activity is excellent for improving attention, motor skills, and the ability to follow instructions.

How to play:

  1. Stand or sit in front of the child.
  2. Perform a simple action (e.g., touch your head, wave your hand).
  3. Ask the child to mimic your action.
  4. Increase the complexity of actions as the child progresses.

This game helps children practice observing and interpreting body language, which is crucial for social interactions. It also reinforces the importance of paying attention to others, an essential skill in social settings.

Mirror, Mirror

“Mirror, Mirror” is an engaging game where the child acts as a mirror, copying the facilitator’s movements exactly. This activity enhances the child’s ability to observe and replicate actions, promoting fine motor skills and coordination.

How to play:

  1. Stand facing the child.
  2. Slowly perform a series of movements (e.g., raising an arm, nodding the head).
  3. Encourage the child to mirror your movements as closely as possible.
  4. Switch roles to give the child a turn to lead.

By switching roles, children learn both to lead and to follow, which is beneficial for understanding social dynamics and developing empathy. This game also supports the development of non-verbal communication skills.

Simon Says

“Simon Says” is a classic game that teaches children how to follow instructions and pay attention to detail. The parent or teacher gives commands prefaced by “Simon says,” and the child should only follow the instructions if they hear this phrase.

How to play:

  1. Explain the rules to the child.
  2. Start with simple commands (e.g., “Simon says touch your nose”).
  3. Mix in commands without “Simon says” to test the child’s attention.
  4. Gradually increase the complexity of the commands.

This game helps children improve their listening skills and impulse control. It also teaches them to pay close attention to verbal cues, which is crucial for effective communication.

Musical Statues

Musical Statues combine music and movement to help children practice self-control and listening skills. When the music stops, the child must freeze in place like a statue.

How to play:

  1. Play a song and encourage the child to dance.
  2. Pause the music at random intervals.
  3. When the music stops, the child must freeze in place.
  4. Resume the music and continue the game.

This activity teaches children to pay attention to auditory signals and practice self-regulation. It also provides a fun way to incorporate physical activity, which can help with overall coordination and motor skills.

Repeat the Sentence

This game involves repeating sentences and is aimed at improving verbal communication and memory. The facilitator says a sentence, and the child repeats it exactly.

How to play:

  1. Start with simple sentences (e.g., “I like ice cream”).
  2. Gradually increase the length and complexity of the sentences.
  3. Encourage the child to articulate clearly and accurately.

This game helps children practice listening and verbal expression. It also enhances their ability to remember and reproduce spoken language, which is essential for effective communication.

Call and Response Songs

Call and response songs are an interactive way to develop auditory processing and social engagement. The facilitator sings a line, and the child responds with the corresponding line.

How to play:

  1. Choose a simple call and response song (e.g., “The Wheels on the Bus”).
  2. Sing the call part and prompt the child to sing the response.
  3. Encourage enthusiastic participation and praise efforts.

These songs help children practice turn-taking and active listening. They also make learning fun and engaging, reinforcing positive social interactions through music.

Storytelling Relay

In a storytelling relay, each participant adds a sentence to a developing story, practicing creative thinking and verbal expression.

How to play:

  1. Start a story with a simple sentence (e.g., “Once upon a time, there was a brave knight”).
  2. Ask the child to add the next sentence.
  3. Continue taking turns adding sentences to build the story.

This activity encourages children to listen carefully to others and build on what they hear, fostering collaboration and creativity. It also enhances their ability to construct and follow a narrative.

Gesture Mimicking

Gesture mimicking involves copying gestures, which helps children understand and use non-verbal communication effectively.

How to play:

  1. Perform a gesture (e.g., waving, nodding).
  2. Encourage the child to mimic the gesture.
  3. Introduce more complex gestures as the child becomes more confident.

This game helps children recognize and interpret body language, an essential aspect of social interaction. It also supports the development of fine motor skills and coordination.

Facial Expression Matching

Facial expression matching is a game where the child mimics different facial expressions, helping them understand and express emotions.

How to play:

  1. Make a facial expression (e.g., happy, sad).
  2. Ask the child to mimic your expression.
  3. Discuss the emotions associated with each expression.

This activity helps children recognize and interpret emotional cues, which is crucial for empathetic interactions and effective communication. It also supports emotional regulation and expression.

Boosting Social Skills With Games

These games provide structured, enjoyable ways for children with autism to practice social skills. These activities can be tailored to each child’s individual needs and progress, making them versatile tools in social skills development. By incorporating these games into daily routines, parents, teachers, and therapists can help children with autism build the confidence and abilities they need to navigate social interactions successfully. With the right support and encouragement, children with autism can develop strong social skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.


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