So here we are. Summer is almost over, and another school year has begun. An unusual, virtual (for most), in home, and stressful start for many, but here we go. One concern for many parents, on a long list of valid concerns, is that their children are missing out on the opportunity to develop social skills.

Social skills include negotiating, compromising, planning, sharing, working together, handling disappointment, making friends, and feeling empathy for others. These necessary skills can be taught through playing with friends, looking for ways to help those in need, sharing time and possessions, doing a group activity, and allowing your children to express, identify, and then handle all their big emotions.

Many of our children are lonely; all of our children need to connect with friends, neighbors, and relatives to maintain healthy social skills and to be assured that their friends are still around and are healthy and safe.

So here are some socialization and fun activities for you to consider. I fully appreciate that every family must decide for them themselves how much risk they are willing to expose themselves to, and what other people they are willing to include in their “social pod”.

My husband and I (with no children living at home) have 8 friends in our social pod. All 8 are people who live as we do: we wear masks, we wash our hands frequently; we stay at least 6′ apart, we stay outside, and we never get together in a group bigger than 4 people. We just get together for companionship, which I need very much and have missed.

These are clear decisions we have made after much discussion and much research. I urge you and your family to have the same discussions, make the decisions that feel right for you in your current situation, and then decide which (If any) of these activities you are comfortable with. Some can be done within your own family, but some can include friends.

Outside Play (always masked and as physically apart as possible)
• Bikes, scooters, roller skates, skateboards
• Laser or water gun games
• Walking/Hiking on foot or in a stroller
• Play soccer, shoot baskets, play catch and kickball, jump rope
• Play with bubbles, water, sidewalk chalk
• “Side by Side: Battleship, book club, art projects, play-doh (sit 6′ apart on individual blankets or in separate hula hoops)
• Obstacle courses

Inside Play (if with someone outside your family, then always masked and as physically apart as possible)
• Make a Study Buddy Pod (that group of friends your child can connect with to on-line do an assignment with or to ask for academic help)
• Puzzles, games, cards
• Interactive online games
• Cooking and baking (share some with an elderly neighbor)
• Read to younger siblings or the family pet
• Connect on-line with family members, near and far. (Get to know some distant cousins that you’ve been meaning to reach out to.)
• Find a PenPal and write letters
• Make a Social Buddy Pod (that one friend you are comfortable with your child playing with, and is always the one you call to share in a fun activity)

I’m here if you have questions, and want to discuss setting up some social activities for your children. We all need to be social – we all need to have a friend -so let’s figure this out together!