Social skills play a key role in effective communication. It is imperative to guide its development from a very young age. But how can parents enhance these social skills? How are baby coos facilitated to turn into sentences?

Our social skills may have started developing right when we were still in our mothers’ wombs. Mysterious as it may seem, human connection happens in the most subtle way. While your sense of hearing developed, your mom’s voice directed to you may have been the first sound you have perceived.

As far as non-verbal communication is concerned, your mother may have communicated with you using calming strokes of her tummy, (as the first gesture like rubbing your back). A gesture that says, “You are safe with Mommy.”

The question is, how does it progress into becoming social skills?

When we were born, our social development peaks over time and experience. This may be best illustrated by Erik Erikson’s stages of Psychosocial Development. Basically, this theory shows that a person’s psychosocial development somehow followed 8 predetermined stages.

From infancy to adulthood, we undergo psychosocial crises which help shape our personality. It may be too much to digest if we actually put it in layman’s terms. That crisis is needed to shape the way we think. But that’s really how our social skills develop. Similar to a cliché that goes, “You grow only when you are out of your comfort zone.”  To this accord, you earn a value once each stage was completed.

Richard Lavoie said human beings master social skills in an incidental way in his book, “It’s So Much Work to be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success”. Where, development happens, as we (1) observe the behavior of others, and (2) replicate it somehow. Then we put this into (3) practice and transform it as our own in (4) response to positive or negative feedback related to the adopted behavior.

In putting together Erickson’s theory and Lavoie’s sequence, somehow, it justifies how the values of the Psychosocial Theory are earned.

What are the values?

Hope (0-1 1/2 y.o.), will (1 1/2-3 y.o.) and purpose (3-5 y.o.) compose the first three values. These are developed with the help greatly of the parents and the rest of the people, who, the growing kid lives with. Meaning, that they are earned within the home.

The value of competency develops when we reach 5-12 years old. The kid starts to emulate distinct behavior based on honing from home happened when socializing outdoors. Now the first three values learned from home serve as the foundation as the honed personality is carried out and put to the test. Getting exposed to other kids brings out interests, attitudes, ideas, and many more.

The classroom, the playground, and the halls become the common setting for such transformation apart from the usual one, the home. As this kid goes through the stage of Industry vs. Inferiority, independence becomes the name of the game. Parents and educators can only help. One way to do this is to follow up on the kids’ social skills around this time and by getting involved when you can.

The role of adults as facilitators

The thing is familiarity with the people we talk to 24/7 keeps up a safe circle for most of us. This usually is our family. We feel safe in venting out to our mom, we feel free in expressing ourselves to our siblings and we know sharing our ideas with our dads makes them proud of us. The expectation is that however, the kid chooses to do this, the outcome will stay safe and accepted. But not necessarily giving them something to work with or improve.

Attending school, being in soirees, and doing public speaking, maybe challenges that could impose room for learning to happen. Agreeing and disagreeing in a polite way also develops around this time. And again, it usually roots in the new grounds of transformation, the school, a stage, or a football field. Be on the lookout for this moment. Because this is the best time to introduce what is an ideal way to discuss.

I recently encountered this game called Hamburger Speaking Cards that you may find helpful in the process.

Hamburger Speaking Cards make group discussions easy and fun!


The Hamburger Speaking Cards basically encourages its players to have a fruitful group discussion. Infused with so many lessons, your child will practice the effective way of speaking up.

This game is suitable for preteens. The ages 5-12 years is a wide range to consider. So many changes and huge development happen around this time. So, the stage of Industry vs. Inferiority pretty much got wide coverage if we particularly talk about social skill development.  Between making friends, finishing a task well, and being able to connect, all are subject to milestones. Hence, this activity is for 10 years old, up.

Let’s see this tidbit first:

Why a hamburger?

All age groups love hamburgers. Even those who don’t eat meat and need to refrain from eating it can enjoy vegetarian burgers. The thing is though, we all know what’s in a burger. And just one ingredient out, wouldn’t make it a hamburger at all. Metaphorically, the creator of this game may have taken the opportunity of making each ingredient represent a part of a discussion. This serves as a reminder that for a discussion to be effective, no part should be omitted.

There’s always a kid in us who “plays”. So in playing Hamburger Speaking Cards, it can be enticing enough to get any age group involved.

The ingredients represent each part of a discussion. With the help of a set-up card, you agree on a topic to discuss.

  1. Relatively, the top bun strives to keep a discussion going. It may also serve as a signal to move on to the next discussion point.
  2. Next in line is the lettuce. Use it for clarification and use it at any time in the discussion. Use it also to repeat points. Also, it allows interrupting a dominating candidate.
  3. The onion represents disagreement.
  4. But the cheese encourages explanation through further clarification.
  5. The tomato stands to agree, opposite to what the onion can do.
  6. Then overall, the bottom bun sums up all to end the discussion.
Here are the ingredients at play.

It stands as the authority or the third entity that guides every participant accordingly.

Preteens follow rules independently and they want to win all the time. As long as you talk about their chosen topic, you will be able to keep their attention. In addition to the topic, they are bound to discuss, these key factors stimulate the brain. The act of agreeing, after the rules were set, serves as a training ground for developing a good set of social skills.


  1. With 4 ways on how to play the game, it increases logic as they follow the sequence of the game. Knowing how each ingredient work, they are able to run the discussion after the format.
  2. Participants learn the importance of developing a constructive sentence.
  3. It enhances their vocabulary, and teaches them the art of constructive disagreement and rationalizing sensibly.
  4. It stimulates critical thinking.
  5. They learn to see the proper manners in communicating with a basic understanding of when to listen and respond.

An activity for a school exercise or one for the game night next week.

If you’re a parent, try engaging your kids in this. If you’re a language teacher, immerse your students in this activity every once in a while when you get a chance. You may also introduce this to your friends to enjoy variety and humor on your game night this coming weekend. The game’s beauty doesn’t rely only on the ability to follow the sequence as per ingredient. But to actually play creatively.

It’s interesting to actually hear how kids express their ideas. How they are able to engage in a conversation with mature people can draw out something from them that they may have not known existed in them. That anybody has the capacity to adapt.

Direction is something that we parents should give to our little ones. This is a good way of doing so without pressure and the feeling of being told what to do. It prevents a rebel from overreacting and it somehow aids attention seekers and those who have inferiority complexes.

I practiced this with my students and it made them speak hesitantly in the beginning. But as the flow of the discussion flourished and as soon as they knew it is ok to disagree on some points, they slowly put down their barriers. They thought before they said something. They were careful in expressing themselves as compared to rashly responding at first.

The thing is, the outcome is fast and can be easily evaluated. The activity provides a safe environment for corrections. And nobody is exempted from committing error since everybody is bound to act according to the cards. So, enjoy the game guys, and have fun!!!


I have a deep regard for your time. It's when I write and cook that time becomes non-existent. I love learning and while you think I am the kind of lady who has a lot of things to say, just take it that I was sharing what I had learned with full impact over a cup of Joe.

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