Social Thinking Activities for Kids: 14 Ideas to Teach Whole Body Thinking

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14 Social Thinking Activities for Kids of All Ages | Developed by Michelle Garcia, Social Thinking is a wonderful curriculum to teach social skills to kids with autism and ADHD. Whether you’re creating a group plan for your classroom, or you need individual lessons for specific students, these games and activities will lay the Social Thinking fundamentals, like the ‘size of the problem’, ‘expected vs unexpected behaviors’, and perspective taking. #socialthinking #selfregulation #autism

If you’re on the hunt for social thinking activities for kids, this post is a great place to start!

In the face of communication challenges, sensory processing sensitivities, an inability to express their own emotions and understand the emotions of others, and problems with impulse control and self-regulation, the world is an overwhelming and confusing place for people with autism, and despite their best intentions, they often fall short when it comes to reading social cues and responding appropriately.

The good news is that it IS possible to teach social skills to kids with autism, and we’re sharing 14 social thinking activities for kids to help.

What Is Social Thinking?

Developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, Social Thinking is a social skills curriculum that teaches children the connection between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Social Thinking is typically used with children who have high functioning autism, but can also be beneficial for kids with ADHD, social communication disorders, and social anxiety. By helping children understand what others think and feel, the Social Thinking curriculum helps kids understand themselves and others, allowing them to successfully navigate social situations, develop and maintain relationships with others, and set them up for success at home, school, and work.

Social Thinking Resources

If you’re just getting started with Social Thinking, here is an assortment of books I highly recommend!

Superflex … A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum
Designed for kids in kindergarten through grade 5, this book teaches children skills to overcome the ‘Team of Unthinkables’, including Rock Brain, Glassman, and One-Sided Sid in a fun way that resonates with them. There are several books within this series, where Superflex takes on each of the Unthinkables, including:

Social Thinking and Me
This is a great introductory book to teach kids aged 9-14 core Social Thinking concepts, and it’s a great tool for therapists, teachers, and parents as they try to break down complex social concepts for their students/children.

You Are a Social Detective
This is another introductory book to the Social Thinking curriculum, and kids love it! Through fun cartoons, kids learn to distinguish between ‘expected’ and ‘unexpected’ social behaviors, and as they work through the book with a parent, therapist, or teacher, they will learn other ‘social smarts’, which will help them understand how they should and shouldn’t behave in social settings.

7 Social Thinking Activities for Kids

Expected vs. Unexpected Behavior Sort | Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a great cut and paste activity to help children learn the difference between expected and unexpected behavior, and it makes a great activity for the beginning of the school year to help reinforce classroom expectations.

Size of the Problem Activities | Teachers Pay Teachers
Designed for kids in grades 2 through 4, this activity will teach kids the difference between small, medium, and big problems, and the appropriate reaction for each.

Free Social Problem Solving Task Cards | Teachers Pay Teachers
This set includes 10 task cards with different scenarios targeted at different social situations with friends, family, and at school. Kids can review and discuss each scenario, and then brainstorm how they would solve each situation. When completed in a group, rigid thinkers will be exposed to different points of view, helping them see different perspectives.

Social Inferences: Social Context Detective | Teachers Pay Teachers
This packet contains 10 different stories, and children need to make ‘smart guesses’ about which social context clues they contain. This activity helps kids break down social cues so they can be successful in their interpretations.

Social Emotional Learning & Character Education | Teachers Pay Teachers
Designed for kids in kindergarten through grade 2, this is a great introductory lesson on empathy, inclusion, and community. With 5 detailed lessons, this packet includes tons of great activities and games, and it’s engaging and effective!

Think It or Say It Social Filter Activity | Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a really fun activity to get kids to practice their social filter! With 20 real life social thoughts to go through, kids must determine if it’s appropriate to say the thought out loud, or if they should keep the thought to themselves instead.

Perspective Taking Activity | Mosswood Connections
This is one of my favorite social thinking activities for kids as it’s so easy to create and you can do this practically anywhere. You can download the free PDF, or you can create your own scavenger hunt where you write down a bunch of different emotions and then challenge your child to identify someone feeling each emotion while you are out and about.

7 Social Thinking Activities for Teens

Emotions Vocabulary: Middle School | Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a great activity to expand the emotional vocabulary of kids in middle school to help support their emotional regulation. It includes 25 emotional vocabulary words, visual discussion scenarios, worksheets, and ‘How Would You Feel?’ task cards.

Social Emotional Comics | Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a great resource that enables you to create your own comics for kids to observe, interpret, and respond to. This is a fun and visual way to get kids thinking about social cues and behavior, and you can challenge older kids to put their critical thinking, problem solving, and emotional intelligence skills to work.

Social Filter Activity | Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a great activity you can use with kids of any age who have a tendency to speak out of turn and say things that are inappropriate out loud. I love the idea of using a strainer to visually represent how a filter works.

The Art of Listening Bundle | Teachers Pay Teachers
Using a listening strategy called LEARN, this is a great lesson to teach teens not only how to listen, but the barriers that get in the way of effective listening and how to deal with them.

Social Skills Task Cards for Middle and High School | Teachers Pay Teachers
With 100 cards in total, this set targets 5 different skill sets: basic interactions, conversations, empathy, friendships and relationships, and conflict resolution. These task cards are a great way to get kids thinking about different social settings, and brainstorm resolutions for each.

Social Group Curriculum for Middle and High School Students | Teachers Pay Teachers
If you’re interested in creating a social group for tweens and teens, this is a great resource to invest in. It’s filled with tips for creating social groups, detailed lesson plans for 20 sessions, and other great materials to help make the experience a success.

Social Skills Sarcasm | Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a great resource to help teach kids how to recognize sarcasm, and it has 20 scenario cards for you to practice this skill with your kids/students.

I hope this collection of social thinking activities for kids proves useful to you. Remember to be patient and creative, and to keep things fun!

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14 Social Thinking Activities for Kids of All Ages | Developed by Michelle Garcia, Social Thinking is a wonderful curriculum to teach social skills to kids with autism and ADHD. Whether you’re creating a group plan for your classroom, or you need individual lessons for specific students, these games and activities will lay the Social Thinking fundamentals, like the ‘size of the problem’, ‘expected vs unexpected behaviors’, and perspective taking. #socialthinking #selfregulation #autism

And if you’re looking for more tips and ideas to help children with special needs like autism, please follow our Special Needs Parenting board, where we share all kinds of great ideas we find each day!



Gwen
Gwen
Gwen is a 40-something freelance writer and social media consultant who has an unhealthy love for makeup, hair, and fashion. She lives with her husband and 8-year-old daughter in Toronto, Canada and hopes to move to a warmer climate someday. Preferably tomorrow.