Return to Headlines

Recommendations for Elementary Student Socializing During Social Distancing

Dear Parents,

During this unprecedented time, we have all been asked to pause our daily routines to focus on health and safety. With social distancing is a new reality and people being asked to stay at home, making social contact and maintaining relationships can be challenging. This may be especially difficult for your children who are accustomed to interacting with same-age peers during the school day and in extracurricular activities. In some ways, the children (and even the adults), are experiencing “loss” and with that, they may be going through some of the stages in the grief cycle, including denial, anger and bargaining. After also experiencing some depression there will eventually be acceptance of this “new normal.” Don’t be surprised if children begin to exhibit several behaviors that are “not typical” for them; this is simply their way of communicating their feelings during this challenging time. Validate their feelings and acknowledge that this is hard - for everyone! Trying to find new and creative ways to connect with others, namely familiar peers, extended family members and other adults, will help to alleviate some of these adverse reactions. 

Below we have put together a list of some suggestions for activities to help your children “socialize” during this time of social distancing. Several of the suggestions also have live links to online resources.

Plan a Virtual Playdate

A great way to connect with other children is through a website that hosts virtual sessions. For example, students in the Rye City School District have access to Google Hangouts Meet. Additional online resources for families could be found in the following link.

Prior to the playdate, talk to your child about the expectations including how long they should expect the playdate to last. Decide what room would be appropriate for the child to call/connect from. Figure out with them what activities they might consider and discuss/practice appropriate social skills, such as greetings, eye contact, and turn-taking. Some children may need help in starting conversations so you may want to consider some of the questions/starters in the following link: steps to starting a conversation.

It’s helpful to have a plan for the playdate. Children are often excited to see themselves on the screen, but may not know what to do on the playdate. For many of our children, especially the younger ones, the playdates may need to be structured and even facilitated by an adult. Some ideas for virtual playdate activities could include:

  • Play “I’m thinking of” and have the peer guess clues to what item your child is thinking about.
  • Play a board game simultaneously. If each child owns the same game (Headbands, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders), they can practice turn-taking and winning/losing. 
  • Create a progressive story! For example, one child starts with “One day I was walking and….” and the peer adds a sentence to the story
  • Take turns coming up with items in a category, or items that start with a particular letter
  • Have a dance party
  • Host a themed playdate:  You can plan all sorts of themed play dates including superheroes, dress up in your favorite costume, bubbles bonanza and more! 
  • Play with dolls or Barbies and discuss your imaginative play ideas
  • Read to each other. The kids can pick out one or two of their favorite storybooks and read it aloud to one another.
  • Find a printable craft online and have each parent print it out, then the kids can do it together and show off their finished project.
  • Let kids create different people, places or things out of play-doh and have the other child guess.
  • Have the children create designs using blocks, K’Nexor Legos and show one another what they made.
  • Do a magic show. Kids love to use their imagination! Have them take turns creating their own magic for one another.
  • Put on a concert or talent show. Plan this ahead of time so your child has plenty of time to practice their talent, whether it’s singing, dancing, baton twirling, hula hooping, whatever it may be!
  • Plan a virtual show and tell. Kids love to show off their toys and they can do it right from their own home!

Gather Friends For A Virtual Game Night

Games have long had many social benefits! Besides the obvious entertainment value, games teach cooperation and how to engage by teamwork. Through games, children learn the importance of being a good winner and a good loser. A positive side effect of an enjoyable experience like a game, is laughter, and laughing actually helps to decrease stress. Did you know that playing games triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals? These “happy hormones” have the power to make a person feel cheerful, compassionate and ultimately content.

  • Of course, it's also possible to game with friends using Xbox Live and Nintendo Online (both of which require paid subscriptions) — kids can share their usernames and play video games like Minecraft and Roblox against each other. 
  • Let's Play Uno allows kids to play this popular card game with friends for free. 
  • RCSD newly created Padlet Activities

Play Time, Down Time, and Family Time

Finally, remember that you can also do things together as a family that can be fun for everyone! Play board games as a family, build “forts” using sheets and blankets and have a slumber party, share funny jokes or even make up a funny dance routine. Why not set up a family movie night? Grab some popcorn, find a comfy spot on the couch, dim the lights and watch a movie together!  Maybe introduce your kids to one of your old favorites from your childhood! Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to watch movies and TV shows. (You could even do this with friends and family if everyone synchronizes the start of the movie. You can even stop the movies at the same time so kids can "talk" during the movie. This does require the monthly Netflix subscription fee, but the Google Chrome extension is free.)    

Yes, social distancing is hard but it does not need to drive us apart! In fact, in reality, it is something that we are now all sharing, is bringing us together as a community, and gives us many more reasons to relate to and connect with one another. It is our hope that while we all navigate through this coronavirus “adventure,” the kids will find that the need to be physically distant from others doesn’t mean they have to be socially distant! There is no need to cut off social ties to friends. In fact, the opposite is true and, now more than ever, we need to think of all the ways we can remain connected, be active, stay curious and most importantly, have fun and find the moments of joy in each day. As you navigate this novel experience, please feel free to reach out to your building’s Principal, school psychologist or elementary counselor for additional support. The staff is available to individually address your families’ needs and concerns.

Wishing you and your families continued good health,

Ms. Bracciodieta, Elementary Guidance Counselor

Mrs. Diaco, Milton School Psychologist

Dr. Mor, Midland School Psychologist

Ms. Weston, Osborn School Psychologist