I have a friend in Portugal who is volunteering with kids in a program here. Does anyone have ideas for activities or fun games she could use with 10-12 year olds that would help build social skills, help them get along with each other better, etc?
Grab a Project Adventure book and play some games. Bottomless Bag Revival is good. So are all the others.
Get outside. Do some service learning or peer mentoring. Identify a common need or goal like going on a bike trip and making it happen.
Yes there are so many! Is it a big group of kids? I will give you a few that are for big and small groups:
1) Red Light Green Light- http://www.gameskidsplay.net/games/sensing_games/rl_gl.htm
This game is good for practicing self regulation and fairness. The kids can get pretty upset when they are called out so prepping them before and discussing after the game is a must.
2) Any team sport such as soccer, basketball or hockey, etc.
3) Emotion Charades- http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2011/03/28/12-activities-to-help-your-child-with-social-skills/ (There are other great games on this website too).
Instead of using movie titles, animal or other typical words, use emotions. Write down feeling words on pieces of paper – or, print out and cut up the worksheet below. Take turns picking a slip of paper and then acting out the word written on it. You could substitute written words for pictures showing the emotion. If kids prefer, you can draw the emotion rather than act it out like in the game Pictionary. You can make it harder by setting a rule that you cannot draw the emotion using a face. Instead, they have to express the feeling by drawing the body language or aspects of a situation that would lead to that emotion (e.g. for sadness, you can draw a kid sitting alone on a bench, or a rainy day, etc.)
4) Crafts and cooking classes. Kids this age like to make smoothies, wraps and such – step-by-step recipes where they have to follow instructions; crafts can be something they all work on together like a big mural painting, birdhouses, (kits for these kinds of crafts are in toy and craft stores – or just youtube), here is a website with some more ideas: https://www.care.com/c/stories/3344/62-summer-crafts-for-kids/
That is a favorite age group of mine, she will have so much fun!
I don't have any games or activities off the top of my head (though with some hunting and maybe imagination, I might find some). However, I wanted to chime in early and nudge us all to remember that social skills can look and feel different for everyone. What appears straightforward to some may seem nonsensical to others, right?
Neurodivergent kids function differently in social situations. For example, autistic youth may not enjoy eye contact, or only specific kinds of it. Rather than push eye contact as a crucial expression of honesty and connection, I suggest searching for other ways these can be communicated – ways that make sense to the bodies and minds of kids who operate differently.
Traumatized young people in particular (many of whom are autistic, actually) would also benefit from activities where ideas like identifying intent (in self and others), as well as asking and giving consent are developed.
I also think 10-12 is a great age to start examining how things like cultural and gender identity shape the ways we interact with each other.
For now, I'll leave everyone with this tough but important question: How can we teach togetherness without conformity?
Your points and insight are well noted! It is so important to have an individualized approach to care and teaching. We have to be very careful to guide social skills and coping skills in a way that respects human rights. In the Relational Child and Youth Care Journal, I recently provided an example of my own misguided 'teaching' of social skills to a group of autistic young people who became incensed at my apparent need to 'teach' them coping skills in light of their everyday oppression due to bullying and abuse. Why was I targeting them for social skills when the rest of the school's neuro-typical students, and even the staff, were not accountable for learning any new social skills of their own?
This was a valuable lesson for me and one I try and keep in mind when providing any programming to young people. I love your comment about "togetherness without conformity". Something for us all to remember!