Social Skills Activities that Teach Kids Emotions

April 22, 2021 | In: Autism Resources

Social skills activities are important for children of all abilities. With this in mind, We Rock the Spectrum’s Social Skills Blog Series aims to provide insight into activities and practical tips that help instill social skills in children. In this article, we focus on the importance of emotional skills in children and introduce four fun and educational activities that can enhance a child’s emotional skill set.

Each child is extraordinary in their own special way. They have their own unique needs and bring something wonderful to the lives they touch. In order for all children to become well-rounded adults, they must learn how to understand their emotions and that of others around them. Although instilling emotional skills may be easier for some children compared to others, it is important that we give each child the chance to learn about and express their emotions. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term for a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by notable social and behavioral challenges. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “an estimation of 1 in 54 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism.” One challenge that children with autism may face is difficulty in emotional skills as compared to children from their age group. They may find it challenging to identify emotions and communication cues through facial expressions, verbal deliveries, and body language. However, this emotional barrier is not isolated to only children with autism. Many children and adults around the world also struggle to navigate their emotions and the emotions of others in social settings. The best learning aid for children at such a tender age is to interact with others in interactive play which can stimulate their emotional development.

Why Are Emotional Skills Important?

Emotional skills are crucial to development at a young age because they can help children create meaningful relationships that last a lifetime. Many children desire social interactions and want to establish meaningful relationships but need some assistance to achieve a desired social outcome. Emotional skills go hand-in-hand with key communication skills such as recognizing emotions through sensory cues, facial expressions, maintaining eye contact, identifying tones of voice and interpreting body language. Ingraining these skills in children allows them to improve their relationships with those around them, increase their self-esteem, and improve their independence and social functionality.

With that, there is no standardized method when it comes to teaching emotions. There are many ways to enlighten and instill emotional skills in children, and one way the We Rock the Spectrum franchise supports this is through sensory play. Learning through play is a fun and highly effective method to integrate and enforce emotional skills for children of all abilities. With this in mind, we have put together a list of engaging activities that enhance emotional skills in children.

Activities To Enhance Emotional Skills

Mother and child reading book and smiling. Happy family time together

1. Reading Books Out Loud

All children love reading books and yearn to experience adventures of their own. Using books as a tool to teach emotions is a great way to rouse their minds and bodies. Parents or teachers can encourage children to read sentences from a book out loud to guide them in expressing their language tones according to the emotions displayed in the book. Children will be able to learn about the delivery and roles of speech tones and body language. These tone differences will also stimulate their hearing senses. The differences between the roar of an angry man, the chirpiness of a happy girl, or a weep from a sad prince can be emphasized so children can associate the language tones and the emotions involved.

2. Empathy Card Games

Empathy Card Games allow children to take turns choosing a card that displays real-life events or scenarios followed by an interactive discussion of how they or their friends would react in a similar situation. Even with simple gameplay, participating kids are encouraged to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and empathize with how others at the table think, feel and act. This game utilizes touch and visual sensory input to create an exciting learning environment for children to learn about emotions and empathy so that they gain a better understanding of others and their own emotions.

3. Sensory Play Equipment

Sensory play allows children of all abilities to explore their environment in a fun, dynamic, and enlightening way. This means that children will benefit from early exposure to activities that can constructively assist in emotional control. We Rock the Spectrum offers an extensive selection of sensory equipment that fosters emotional growth and development in children. For example, playing on the trampoline is a great channel for children to not only relieve emotional frustrations and stress. Additionally, the increased range of movement and activation of the vestibular and proprioception systems used in this social exercise can be a way for emotional expression through body language, especially if a concurrent game such as ‘Simon Says’ is incorporated. 


Our specially-designed equipment, which includes the fan-favorite zip box, crash pit, trampoline, and more,  are also great physical alternatives provided at each of our gyms, which similarly enhances appropriate channels for emotional venting and healthy socializing.

4. Emotional Matching Game

Through this simple matching game, children are involved in an exercise using cards that feature different emotions, where they try to identify or match cards with the related facial expression. This activity utilizes visual cues to prompt children to identify or mimic visible hints such as a smile, frown, or tears that someone would display if they are feeling happy, angry, or sad. With this, parents or teachers can further explore the origin of emotions and how children can apply them in real-life scenarios. By gaining insight into the emotional facial features of others, children will be able to better navigate the emotions of those around them in order to learn how to best act and react to them.

Key Takeaways

The journey to fully equip a child with fundamental emotional and social awareness may be challenging but is certainly worthwhile and will help children of all abilities become more well-rounded and versatile individuals. Thinking of creative and innovative ways to provide an education system that meets all childrens’ emotional needs – inside and outside of school — will provide them with the tools that they need in a way that is enjoyable for all!

As part of a caring community, the We Rock the Spectrum franchise is doing its part to foster emotional development in children through its sensory equipment and Play With A Purpose™ program. We Rock the Spectrum is proud to provide a safe and educational environment that meets the needs of children of ALL abilities!