You don't need to overload kids with activities in order to encourage social and emotional development at home. Just incorporate these simple ideas into your social-distanced days.

By Tamekia Reece
February 05, 2021
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Hanging out with peers ups kids' social-emotional and cognitive development, language skills, and more. Though your school-age kid hasn't gotten much peer contact this year, you can help offset isolation so they can push through. Here are some easy ways to keep them on track.

Credit: Stígur Már Karlsson/Heimsmyndir/Getty Images

Play with Them

Missing out on group fun and games could mean less chance for your kid to work on their social skills. So try to set aside time daily to give them some practice, says Dylann Gold, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, in New York City. Dress-up, coloring, and fort building all count.

Get Your Kid to Laugh

Silliness is a key part of kids' friendships. Toys, books, and shows that make your child crack up can help fill that gap. "Anything involving surprise—magic tricks, puppets—is fair game," says Jessica Borelli, Ph.D., associate professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine.

Rethink Virtual Playdates

Your kid is probably tired of Zoom get-togethers. But there are ways to make virtual visits more creative. Through Airbnb Online Experiences, kids can connect with friends to meet penguins, learn magic, or go on an underwater shark adventure. Buddies can also make slime with the Sloomoo Institute, have fun with STEM play through Tinkergarten, or try out a variety of virtual classes through ActivityHero.

Schedule Safe, In-Person Fun

Sometimes just seeing a friend or other kids (even if it's only waving from the car) can be beneficial, says Dr. Borelli. Take your child on a walk or a bike ride with a friend (with your families on opposite sides of the street). Or go to the park and play masked, socially distanced games such as "Simon says." If you supervise, your child can have some safe face time with a friend.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's March 2021 issue as "Fill Your Kid's Friendship Bucket (Even Without a Playdate)." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here.

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