social skills activities summer

Stay Cool: Summer Social Skills Activities From Akron Occupational Therapists

Summer is a time of adventure, exploration and fun. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to incorporate some summer social skills activities to practice what your kids are working on with their Akron occupational therapists!

Here in Northeast Ohio, the summer months are precious. We want our patients and families to make the most of the time they have outdoors and with each other!

Just because you’re “practicing” what your Akron occupational therapists are teaching doesn’t mean social skills activities are boring. In fact – it’s better if you’re all having a blast! Our goal with offering specific approaches targeting social skills is to make it easy – so you don’t have to put a ton of thought into it once you get going.

OT-Approved Summer Social Skills Activities

Group playdates and picnics.

Sweet and simple. Pack a bag of snacks or sandwiches and pick a shady spot at your favorite park. Invite along some friends. You can encourage turn-taking, promote conversational skills, and enhance cooperative play. Step it up with board games, card games, or a ball to play catch. Another way to make it fun is to encourage kids to participate in a group storytelling activity, where each child adds their own part to the story (which fosters cooperative play and creativity).

Outdoor games.

Races, hide-and-seek, soccer, basketball, tag — all of these require kids to communicate, follow the rules, and work together toward a common goal. They are likely also to get a chance to “lose well.” Practice working through those big feelings when the game doesn’t go the way they hope.

Messy arts and crafts.

Nicer weather means you can get a little messier with the crafts – because you can take it outside! Messy crafts are great for sensory integration, but they’re also good chances to encourage collaboration, promote sharing of materials and ideas, and practice patience and turn-taking. Make slime, nature bracelets, homemade playdough, sand castles, marshmallow sculptures, footprint stepping stones, pinecone bird feeders,. bubbles, garden wind chimes, finger paints, bath bombs, oil sun catchers, tie-dye t-shirts, splatter paint, shower curtain painting, pasta necklaces, squirt gun paint, marble paint, leaf printing, mud paint, sidewalk chalk art, nature collages, rock painting, and more!

Cooking & baking.

Making food together is an important bonding tradition in many families. It involves a lot of social skills that we as neurotypical people often don’t think about. When we approach food-making with a little more intention and understanding, breaking down the steps and exercising a bit of patience, these can be incredibly beneficial social skills activities for kids who struggle with social interactions. It teaches cooperation and following instructions, enhances communication and listening skills, and encourages sharing and turn-taking. Either 1:1 or with friends, start with simple recipes like cookies, cupcakes, sandwiches, fruit salads, fruit skewers, etc. Assign different tasks to each child, create visual schedules, incorporate fun rhymes or songs, use timers, – and then enjoy sharing it together afterward!

Nature scavenger hunt.

Encourage communication, teamwork, and listening/observation skills by organizing a scavenger hunt at a local park – or in your own back yard. Provide a list of items (or pictures of items, if your child doesn’t yet know how to read). This could be spotting certain wildlife or leaves, collecting certain items like a short twig or rough-textured rock. Pair kids off into small groups or 1:1, and have them work together to figure out the best way to complete it. Consider rewards for different categories (who finished first, who found the coolest rock, which team worked best together, etc.).

Plan a party.

Tea party. Water balloon party. Board game party. Craft party. Make a checklist & have them help: Decide your theme, what activities to have, what supplies/food you’ll need, if you want a music playlist, make the invitations, etc. Admittedly, this might be a bit more work for you, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or pricey. Especially for tweens and teens, including them in the whole planning process is great for practicing executive functioning skills – and they’ll get a chance to share it all with those who invite.

Gardening projects.

Create a small garden or just a few containers. Involve your child in picking out which plants to grow, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, and taking care of it. Assign your child a regular task – like watering it or picking out the weeds.

Community service.

Get involved in a local park cleanup, organize a neighborhood food drive, or visit a local senior center with a special activity. Some kids do these sorts of activities with scouts or other groups, but you don’t necessarily need to be part of a formal group if you take a little initiative. These kinds of activities will not only help with communication, but also reinforce positive social behaviors and values like working together, helping others, and having a sense of belonging.

Drama & Role-Playing Games

Theater has all kinds of great possibilities for social skills activities – but you don’t need a formal stage or teacher to make it happen. Break out the costumes (or have them make their own). Set up a “stage” area. Have them make up their own play, or just pretend / improv on the spot.

They can brainstorm basic roles: Coach/Athlete, Teacher/Student, Circus Tiger/Ringmaster, Actor/Director, News Reporter/Man on the Street, Boss/Employee, Dragon/Knight, etc.).

Some possible scenarios:

  • One character can only communicate in song or song lyrics.
  • One character is super late to the job. How will the others react?
  • There’s just been an alien invasion. What happens next?
  • One of the characters is the absolute worst at their job.
  • Someone has showed up unexpectedly – at the worst possible time.

More complex scenarios for older kids:

  • Emotions in a bottle. Characters pretend to find bottles, each labeled with different emotions. What happens when the characters “drink” them?
  • Haunted restaurant: It’s the best restaurant in town. Only problem? There’s a ghost haunting it. What’s it doing there? How do the staff and guests react? Is it there to stay?
  • Animal whisperer. A character realizes they are suddenly able to understand and talk to animals. How will he/she react? What will the animals say? How will other people react?
  • Family vacation in space. Each kid is a different family character, and they’re all going on vacation – in space!

The possibilities are endless! Theater/improv is great for helping kids communicate, take in others’ perspectives, think on their feet, and improving vocabulary, turn-taking, etc. (And while it’s easy enough to set up outdoors, it’s also great for those long, rainy summer afternoons.)

Have More Summer Fun Ideas?

We’d love to hear them!

For more information about Akron occupational therapy, ABA therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy at Therapy and Wellness Connection, Contact Us Online or call our office (330) 748-4807. Serving Brecksville, Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron and surrounding communities.

Additional Resources:

5 Ways to Build Social Skills at Home This Summer, 2021, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Upcoming Sensory Friendly Activities in Cleveland & Akron, April 22, 2024, Therapy & Wellness Connection Akron Occupational Therapists Blog