Lunch Bunch Social Skills Ideas

Two young students eating lunch together.
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Lunch bunch meetings are a way to encourage children to interact with their peers. Children who have a difficult time using social skills can improve their efforts by participating in planned activities aimed at teaching children how to make and interact with friends. Lunch bunch groups meet regularly during lunch and engage in short activities and conversations. An adult, usually a teacher, administrator or aide, guides the students through social situations to give them opportunities to make friends.

1 Use Icebreakers

Help lunch bunch students get to know each other by using a technique known as icebreakers. Icebreakers are short prompts that engage participants in learning about each other, which facilitates sharing. Ask the students to write down their favorite foods; the food they dislike the most; the weirdest or most gross thing they've ever eaten; if they prefer salty or sweet foods, or a food item they made or helped an adult prepare. Have the students write their answers on a piece of paper. The facilitator reads each answer -- one by one -- and participants guess who wrote it.

2 Get Students Talking

To help older participants engage in spontaneous conversation, create conversation topics or prompts. Write ideas on index cards, such as "Favorite Summer Vacation," "Sport I Love to Play or Watch" and "Things I Do for Fun." Form partners and give each group a topic or place index cards in a bowl and have the groups draw a topic from the bowl. Set a timer and have partners discuss the topic for five minutes. Switch groups and discuss a new topic, repeating until everyone has had a chance.

3 Play Checkers or Board Games

Have the students play short, simple games. Select games that don't require much preparation and that players are familiar with, such as checkers, or memory or card games. Encourage continued participation and deeper bonding by holding on-going checkers tournaments. This gives the students something to look forward to and also builds cognitive and social skills. Give the participants a selection of board games and allow the groups or partners to choose a game they like to play.

4 Make Simple Crafts

The students can make simple crafts during a lunch bunch group, such as craft stick ornaments or decorated paper plates. The simplicity of these crafts works within the lunch bunch period and also facilitates conversation and sharing. The students can glue three craft sticks together to form an A-shape and then add googly eyes and a red puff to make a reindeer ornament. The students can also make holiday tree ornaments, sleds, stars, snowflakes, book marks or picture frames from craft sticks. Using paper plates, the students can decorate a plate with markers and cotton puffs to make a paper plate Santa Claus or they can use orange and black markers to create a paper plate Jack O’Lantern.

5 Make a Name Jar

Place lunch bunch participants' names in a jar. Use this jar to draw names when partnering or creating groups. Having a preplanned method for randomly grouping students will be handy for the facilitator. It'll also help students to get to know everyone in the group, rather than selecting the same partners each time.

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.