Help prepare young adults for life after middle or high school with social skills activities for teens. Teenagers learn social skills from real-life experiences, so look for ways to make the activities relevant to your teen.
Social Skills Activities for Middle School
Some of the social skills middle schoolers typically work on include being assertive, learning to recognize and understand nonverbal communication, setting boundaries, and accepting differences. For this age group, you can often adapt social skills activities for kids.
Stress Reduction Circuit
Tweens can explore different stress reduction techniques to find out which is most calming in this simple activity. Learning how to calm yourself down in stressful situations or conversations is a vital social skill.
- You'll need some sort of happiness chart to measure your results. Find five images of various stages of happiness and stress or write those stages on a piece of paper.
- Choose 3 to 5 calming techniques like drawing, listening to music, yoga, counting backward from 10, deep breathing exercises, running, or playing basketball.
- Set up a "station" for each of your chosen calming techniques.
- Think of something that really stresses you out or makes you really frustrated. Write down which stage of happiness/stress from your chart this thing makes you feel.
- Spend about five minutes doing one of your chosen calming techniques. When time is up, use your happiness chart to write down what stage you're at.
- Repeat Step 5 with each calming technique.
- Which one made you feel the happiest? How could you use this knowledge to help you deal with stressful interactions in real life?
Middle schoolers can practice using and understanding nonverbal communication with this twist on the classic talking game Telephone. This also serves as a good activity for practicing being attentive. You'll need a small group to play this game, but you could adapt it for just two people to be more like Charades.
- Write a bunch of emotions on slips of paper and put them in a bowl. Emotions include angry, excited, tired, and grumpy.
- Stand everyone in a line so you're all facing the same direction. You should be facing the back of the person in front of you.
- The person at the back of the line will secretly draw one emotion.
- The person at the back of the line will tap the person in front of them. This person should turn around to face whoever tapped them.
- The person who tapped will use 3 nonverbal clues to show their emotion, then the person they tapped will turn back around.
- Each successive player repeats Steps 4 and 5. They must try to use the same or similar nonverbal cues the person before them used.
- The last person will try to guess the emotion after they see the clues.
- You can play as many rounds as you want, drawing a new emotion and starting with a new player each time.
Put It in Perspective
Help tweens learn to accept differences by seeing how different perspectives can be fun and exciting. Students will need a camera with a zoom function and a program where they can alter the image. The easiest way to do this is to have them use a smartphone with photo editing capabilities.
- Come up with a list of different people or creatures like a grandpa, a baby, an ant, and a giraffe.
- Choose any object in your home or yard like a specific toy, calculator, or coat.
- Ask your tween to put himself in the mindset of each person or creature on your list and take one picture of the same object from each perspective. For example, from an ant's perspective you might photograph a chair from underneath it.
- Tweens can then take each photo and use the editing tools to add drawings, words, or stickers to enhance the perspective that image is showing.
- See if you can guess which picture was taken from each perspective. Discuss why you were or weren't able to guess correctly.
Social Skills Activities for Teenagers
Social skills teens should be focused on include respecting differences, listening with undivided attention, differences between personal and professional communication, and cell phone etiquette.
Build a Virtual World
Fun socialization websites for teens include multi-player platforms where you can create your own world. Games like these give teens the chance to think about a whole community, set boundaries, and enforce them.
- Choose an online gaming platform like Minecraft or Animal Crossing.
- Create your own world.
- Invite friends to the world and share the rules of your world.
- Interact with friends and enforce the rules when needed.
Start a Niche Social Club
Starting a social club for teens covers a lot of social skills like meeting new people, respecting differences, communication, and leading a group. These are all desirable job skills teens will need as adults.
- Choose a niche subject you're interested in, experienced at, or passionate about. It could be old anime cartoons, books about mermaids, or funny needlepoint projects.
- Choose a group format like in-person or online.
- Plan out how you will create the group, organize it, invite people, meet, and what you'll do or talk about. Make a group mission statement and behavior guidelines to keep everyone safe.
- You can actually create your social club or just talk about what you've planned.
Train a Dog
Working one-on-one with an animal can help you learn a lot about your own strengths and weaknesses in terms of social skills. By teaching a dog a trick, you'll learn about verbal and nonverbal communication with someone very different from you, patience, and attentiveness.
- If you don't have a dog, see if you can work with a family member or friend's dog.
- Schedule one or more sessions to train them.
- Choose one trick to start with like jumping through a hoop or shaking hands. Read about dog training techniques and try the one you think will work best.
- Keep a journal of what worked well, what didn't work, and any other challenges you encountered. What did you learn about yourself in the process?
Social Skills Activities for High School Students
Help high schoolers make quick decisions about personal versus professional communication with a quick email activity. Make sure all students have your email address before the activity begins.
- Each teen will need an electronic device capable of sending email in real time.
- You should also have your email account open on a separate device.
- Call out a recipient and subject such as "Dr. Brown, homeopathic suggestions for a headache," or "Grandma, planning Easter."
- Give students five minutes to craft and send you an email that fits the scenario you called out.
- At the end of five minutes, call out another scenario. Ask students to "reply" to the previous email they sent you for each round so all their answers are in one email thread.
- Repeat this as many times as you want.
- Together, look at the emails they sent. What major or minor changes were made based on the recipient and/or the subject?
Take a Virtual Art Tour
Some benefits of art activities include being assertive, sharing opinions, networking, seeing different perspectives, and networking. In this activity, you'll want a small group of people so everyone can critique and discuss works of art. The goal is to share real opinions and feelings while being respectful of each other's opinions.
- Find a virtual tour of an art museum on their website or YouTube.
- Stop at each piece of art and share commentary on it. How does it make you feel? Do you like it? What does it look like to you?
- Discuss the differences in your opinions and feelings on each work of art.
Strengthening Your Teen Social Life
You can help your teenager with social skills by incorporating social activities, social skills games, and other social skills tools into their daily lives. All of these skills will translate into personal relationships and job skills for your teen's future.