Teaching Social Skills Through Song | Listen & Learn Music

One of the most important skills all children must learn is appropriate social interaction. Social skills enable us to connect with others, but are often very abstract for children and can be difficult to teach.

Whenever something is difficult to teach children, I always write or look for a song about it (maybe because I’m a music therapist!), and that’s where Listen & Learn Music comes in: if there’s a song I need, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll find a catchy, goal-oriented one that fits the bill.

“What Do You Do?”

Goals for this song include:

  • Improve social skills
  • Identify emotions and body language
  • Identify coping skills

For many of the children with whom I work, social skills don’t come easy. “What Do You Do?” is a simple introduction to social skills that can be practiced in a motivating way, and when used in a group, can even facilitate social interaction among peers.

Each verse features a situation, such as seeing a friend, and the appropriate body language, such as waving. The song has four verses, but additional lyrics can be added to address other social skills, situations, or emotions.

What Do You Do? | Song for Teaching Social Skills

When using “What Do You Do?” with my individual clients, I’ve often added verses with more challenging emotions, such as frustration or anger, and written lyrics with appropriate coping skills to match. This is a great opportunity to create a “social story” song for my clients and is an excellent way to practice healthy coping skills.

When working on emotions and coping skills, I often consult with classroom teachers, parents, and occupational therapists. As a music therapist, it’s beneficial to know the specific language other professionals are using with each child and what strategies have been successful at school or at home.

After I’ve added some verses, I will often share them with other staff and family members so they can use a successful tool with which the client is already familiar. This creates consistency for my clients and increases the likelihood that skills developed in one setting will start to generalize to others.

Another effective adaptation to this song is using visuals to accompany the verses and create a matching game to play with your clients. I like to make visuals for all of the emotions, body language, or situations, and present a visual, such as a happy face, as well as two choices, a smile or a frown, and prompt the client to choose which one matches. It can be a challenge for the children to match the visuals together, but doing so will increase their cognition on a topic that is abstract and often difficult.

“What Do You Do?” is an excellent way to target social skill goals with your clients and can be used as an introduction to the basics, such as waving and smiling, or as a way to practice coping skills in a fun and structured way. Tell me in the comments below: which social skills do you feel are the most important to introduce to young children?

You can listen to “What Do You Do?” in its entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3, and instrumental track for this original song are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt this song as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.