11 Activities for developing Interpersonal Intelligence in Children
Are you looking for activities that develop and enhance the interpersonal intelligence in your child? If yes, here is our list of 11 activities for developing interpersonal intelligence in children. This list of 11 interpersonal intelligence activities was developed after a fair amount of research and is most suited for young children (preschool, pre-primary and kindergarten). While a few of these activities are best suited for a classroom, there are a lot of activities which can be done outside of a classroom as well. We are confident that you will find them useful if you follow the methodology suggested by us.
- Regular Household Chores
- Arts and Crafts
- Pretend Play
- Planting Saplings (gardening)
- Building Blocks
- Magnetic Tiles
- Community Service (volunteering)
- Public Speeches (show and tell)
- Drama (plays)
- Dance (in a group)
But before you jump right in, please read our blog. It explains what interpersonal intelligence is, the different skills that make up this intelligence, the relationship with child development and finally our suggested methodology and activities.In this blog, we look at activities for developing interpersonal intelligence in children. But first, let us understand more about interpersonal intelligence.
What is Interpersonal Intelligence?
Interpersonal intelligence can be understood as the ability to get along with people. Interpersonal intelligence can be defined as the ability to form social and emotional relationships with other people. It also includes the ability to manage conflicts with other individuals. It is one of the 9 types of intelligences as per Howard Gardner and his famous theory of multiple intelligences.
The 7 Key Skills that make up Interpersonal intelligence:
- Verbal communication skills. This is probably the most common interpersonal skill. It is also the most natural as there are always ample opportunities in the daily environment of the child, to practice this.
- Non-verbal communication skills. Researchers say that very small part of communication is verbal. Facial expressions, hand gestures, body language etc. play a vital role in effective communication.
- Listening skills. An important skill that is often ignored by most of us. But remember that communication is not a one-way journey. Listening is what makes communication complete and makes it a two-way journey.
- Negotiation skills. Are we not always negotiating in our professional and personal lives? Put any two individuals in the world together in one room and disagreements will happen pretty soon. Negotiation is what helps the two individuals come to a mutually acceptable solution in the end.
- Problem-solving skills. Every recruiter today wants to hire a ‘problem solver’. Being problem solver is as much about ability as it is about attitude. It is best to start young if you want your children to be problem solvers.
- Decision making skills. What is life, if not a series of decisions? 🙂 Decision making is as much an art as a science. We make decisions and we live to face the consequences. It becomes even more complex when you are part of a team or leading one.
- Assertiveness. Articulating your needs and wants clearly to others is crucial.
Why are Interpersonal Intelligence Skills Important?
Very often, in our workplaces, we see that it is not necessarily the person with the highest IQ who gets the promotions. When it comes to success in the workplace as well as in leadership roles, it has been observed that the technical expertise and IQ can be less important than emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is closely related to the concept of interpersonal intelligence.
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Child Development Stages and Interpersonal Intelligence
Children are born into this world with practically no social skills. They learn the social rules by observing, interacting and learning from their primary caretakers. In most cases, the primary caretakers are parents themselves. How under-developed a child’s social skills are, can be gauged by the fact that most infants and toddlers find it very difficult to share their things with other children. Be it toys or dolls or books, young children hate to share! In case you have more than one child, you would have gone through the phase of sibling rivalry and jealousy. It should surprise no parent that interpersonal intelligence is quite underdeveloped if your child belongs to the pre-primary, preschool or kindergarten age groups.
In fact, the types of play engaged in by children is an excellent indicator of their evolving and developing social skills. Infants largely engage in Solitary play where they play all by themselves, uninterested in other children. When they reach toddlerhood (preschool or pre-primary), they start to enjoy the Parallel play, where they play alongside children of the same age-group but do not directly engage with the other child. Only when children reach the ages of 4-5 (kindergarten), they start to engage in what is called the Cooperative play. Most popular games and sports fall under this category. Cooperative play is the most advanced type of play in terms of social and interpersonal rules that it requires its participants to follow.
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What are the signs of high Interpersonal Intelligence?
- Sensitive to other’s moods and feelings
- Can easily gauge the motivations and intentions of others
- An excellent team player
- Possesses good communication and Negotiation Skills
- Exhibits leadership qualities
A few misconceptions about what constitutes high interpersonal intelligence:
Very often we have noticed that parents tend to confuse the below signs as interpersonal intelligence. This may NOT be true! So please read carefully.
- An extrovert. An extrovert who likes being around people may not always display high interpersonal skills. Conversely, even introverts can have high interpersonal skills.
- The constant need to be the leader of the pack. On the contrary, a true sign of high interpersonal skills is the ability to be both a good team player and a leader.
- Great oratorical skills. Great oratory does not imply great interpersonal skills. Unlike oratory, true communication is a two-way phenomenon that also includes non-verbal aspects.
Activities for developing Interpersonal Intelligence in Children & Methodology
As we noted above, the child gradually develops his social and interpersonal skills. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind the age-appropriateness of the activities. Below we give suggestions on activities for developing interpersonal intelligence in children between 2 to 6 years of age (from preschool to kindergarten).
For all activities listed below try and follow this methodology:
- Your child needs at least one partner for the activity. The partner could be other children or it could be you. Interpersonal skills develop when one works in a collaborative manner. If you have more than 4 children, you could think of dividing them into teams.
- Set a Goal. Understanding a goal clearly needs listening skills. When a child is working in a collaborative manner towards a goal, it helps the child to develop and hone problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Give children the resources needed. Depending on the goal you have chosen, the requisite resources will have to be made available.
- Designate Roles (optional): If you have enough children or if there is a big age gap between the participants, you could look to designate roles. You could make one person the team-leader and others, the team-members, depending on the nature of the activity.
- Time Constraint (optional). Depending on the type of the activity, you could decide to add an upper time-limit for the activity completion.
- Winners and Prizes (optional). Again, depending on the type of the activity, it is up to you to decide if you want to have winners and prizes. We would recommend that you do not use this option too frequently.
It is important for parents to understand that the process of working collaboratively, talking with each other and coordinating is what enhances all the interpersonal skills. Hence the focus should NOT be on the end goal but rather on the process.
Note: We start with ideas for children in the age group of 2-4 (preschool, pre-primary and early kindergarten) and then look at the 4-6 year age (kindergarten) group. If your child is in the second age group, please skip the first section and directly go to the second.
Activities and Ideas for Toddler and School-Ready Children (Preschool, Pre-primary and Early Kindergarten)
This refers to the age group of children who are between 2-4 (preschool, pre-primary, early kindergarten) years. For this group, we suggest the following activities.
1. Regular household chores
Parents should remember that it is only adults who consider household chores as boring. Numerous studies have shown that preschoolers do not think in this manner. Let us say you have a habit of doing a bit of house cleaning every Sunday. Why not engage your child while doing the same? Trust me, children love being engaged and learn so much from it. Even a simple activity like cleaning your bookshelf or clothes cupboard can be so much fun for a child. Here are 4 tips on how to go about it.
- Keep talking with your child as you are doing the activity. If you are cleaning your bookshelf, explain why you are doing it (because it is dirty, duh!). Explain how you are going to do it: “I bring all the books down, then clean the bookshelf with a cloth and re-arrange the books back”.
- Give the child small tasks which it can do on its own. For example, you can ask your child to fetch a few things when you need them.
- Take the child’s opinion. For example, you can ask the child her opinion on where a book should be put on the shelf.
- Finally, once it is over, don’t forget to thank the child for her contribution to the team-work!
2. Arts and Craft
You can create your own indoor activities with relatively simple things like chart paper, colour paper, pieces of old clothes and other fabric pieces, child-friendly modelling clay, ribbons, plastic cups and buckets, old cardboard boxes (what do you do with all those Amazon or Flipkart boxes?) etc. Set the goals keeping in mind the resources you have. The goals could range from making a paper boat to a beautiful doll or a nice rangoli to a colourful box for putting keys and coins.
Pretend play for toddlers (preschool, pre-primary and early kindergarten age group) is important for the development of children. It has been shown to have immense benefits ranging from social, emotional, language, cognitive and imagination skills. As we noted in our earlier article, it is a natural phase that all children go through and should be encouraged. Depending on the props available at your disposal there are many possible activities that you can encourage your children to play.
For example: Visiting a Doctor, Going to a Supermarket, Picnic at the Zoo, Superhero/Barbie Doll games, Doing a Puja or going to a Temple etc. As a parent, all you must do is come up with a theme and sit back and enjoy. Do not keep the rules of the game very tight. Instead, let the children run the show and intervene only when it is going completely off-track or if the children have gotten stuck.
Just like adults like to play the ‘dumb charades’ or ‘Antakshari’ games with Indian movie names, young children will love to play ‘Pictionary’. The objective is for the team-mates to guess the selected word from the picture drawn. For young children, this game will enhance teamwork, imagination, cognitive capabilities, vocabulary and non-verbal communication. All you need for this activity is chart paper or whiteboard and a few sketch pens or crayons to draw. You can have a point system to spice things up.
5. Planting Saplings or small plants
This activity is best done over few days of time for best results and requires an open area like your balcony or garden. Once you have a place, all you need is a few additional things like seeds, pots, soil or mud and mugs or small buckets for watering the plants. You can use household grains and seeds. I recently did this activity with my children using brown/black channa. Other seed options also include methi, coriander, rice (but needs a lot of water and might take up to 8-10 days to see results), tomato seeds and chilli seeds (you should be careful that children do not touch any part of the body while using chilli seeds) etc. These plants tend to grow reasonably quickly, and our impatient children can see results of their efforts soon. You can also get your children to decorate the pots with colours and paints
Activities for early School-Going (Kindergarten) Children
In general, this refers to the age group of children who are 4-6 years (kindergarten) and above. We suggest the following activities:
1. Building Blocks
If you have a Lego building set or any other good building-block set, there are many interesting things that can be built by children. For example, they can build a house, building, temple or a park. Assembling the Lego pieces requires good fine motors skills as well as good 3D imagination and creativity. Goals that you set could range from a simple house to a Taj Mahal.
2. Magnetic Tiles
This game is a favourite among children. They love the fact that tiles stick together. And because of this, unlike building blocks or Lego pieces, assembling the tiles to form structures is much easier. Just like building blocks or Lego Toys, this game too enhances 3D imagination and creativity. The goals you could set can range from a temple to a castle.
3. Community Service and Volunteering
Volunteering and community service theme can be explored with various easy to execute ideas. For example, it could be something as simple as collecting donations for Ganesh puja in the neighbourhood. Similarly, you can use children for old clothes donation campaign. You can organize neighbourhood cleanliness drives. These kinds of activities require coordination, initiative, organization and leadership skills. While organizing such activities, you could look to designate specific roles for each participant.
4. Giving Short Speeches in public like ‘Show and Tell’
While children (kindergarten age group) at this stage are too young for debates, you can still encourage public speaking activities. This has numerous benefits. The whole process includes the following steps: Children must select a topic, do basic research on the topic, probably write down what they are going to say, remember and memorise the speech and finally talk confidently in public. Benefits of such activities include better communication skills, good public speaking skills, reduced stage fear etc.
5. Plays (Drama)
Activities of this type naturally require greater adult supervision and are best suited in a classroom setting. It is adults who have to come up with ideas for the skit or the play, write down the dialogues for the same and even arrange for costumes. The benefits of such kinds of activities are numerous as they require coordination, communication and public speaking skills. Besides being a lot of fun, these events leave lasting and fond memories.
6. Dance (in a Group)
This is an excellent and fun way to teach interpersonal and social skills to children. Similar to a play, there has to be significant amount of adult involvement on things like song selection, deciding the steps of the song, choreography, costumes etc. Dance is an activity that has numerous benefits including coordination, gross motor skills and communication. This type of activity too is best suited for a classroom setting.
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Author’s Note to Parents:
- Always be mindful of the safety aspects of games and activities. For example, small building block pieces can potentially be a choking hazard. Similarly, if you are organizing activities like volunteering, it would be preferable if you are doing it in a controlled environment and in a safe neighbourhood. It may not be a good idea for your child to go and knock the doors of complete strangers.
- The list of activities given above is only a starting-off point. Any activity that enhances 3 or more of the 7 sub-skills mentioned in the beginning of the article, will enhance interpersonal skills in your child. Basis this, parents can come up with many such ideas on their own.
- Most sports, especially team sports, are excellent activities for enhancing interpersonal skills. Typical advanced sports are classified as ‘co-operative play’ by child development specialists. Encouraging your children to play sports is a no-brainer!
- In total we have listed 11 activity ideas: 5 for the 2-4 year age group (preschool, pre-primary and early kindergarten) and 6 for the 4-6 year (kindergarten) age group. But depending on your circumstances, the activity ideas could work across age groups as well. For example, pictionary activity would work even for 4-6 age group children.
- Lastly, try and get your children to participate in such activities at least once a week for lasting impact. Maintaining a weekly frequency will help in the deep assimilation of the principles of interpersonal intelligence by your child.
We hope you liked our blog on activities for developing interpersonal intelligence in children.
We have also prepared a short presentation of this blog. For those who are in hurry, here’s the link.
 Goleman, D. (1998). Working With Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY. Bantum Books.