Games to Improve a Child's Nonverbal Communication Skills

Provide your child with enjoyable practice interpreting and sending nonverbal communications 1. While children are often born with the instinctive ability to read someone else's emotions, the knack of sending the right emotion for the occasion doesn't always come so easily. Adapt classic children's activities to focus on nonverbal social skills involving body language and facial expressions.

Wordless Stories

Hum through a story without reading the words, letting your face and intonation reflect emotion, whether it is happy or sad, scary or surprising. Have your child guess which emotion you are showing. Then, give your child a turn reading a “wordless story.” If he can’t read yet, use a picture book for him to practice with. For a similar activity, take turns telling your own wordless stories, showing emotions through inflections and facial expressions.


Play the child’s version of charades to provide practice with body language. Write age-appropriate actions on folded pieces of paper, for a new approach to the classic game. Take turns acting out the activities. Advance to a different version of the game, keeping the emphasis on facial emotions. Put emotion words on folded pieces of paper for him to pick from. If he can’t read yet, draw a face on a piece of paper and have him imitate what he sees on the cue card.

Magazine Picture Card Games

Leaf through a magazine with your child and cut out pictures of people showing a clear emotion. Paste the pictures onto index cards to make flashcards. Look through the pictures together and determine what emotion each photo depicts. If your child struggles to identify some of the emotions, set those ones aside for daily practice. Try to find pairs of pictures showing the same emotion so that you can use the cards to play Memory, Go Fish or Twenty Questions.

Drama Games

Adapt classic drama games to help your child identify and emote nonverbal communication through his voice inflections 3. Practice saying a phrase like “Oh really” with various emotions to convey different meanings. Demonstrate for your child, using intonations of disgust, excitement, sarcasm and surprise. Pick new phrases for him to practice with. For another dramatic interpretation, turn on the television to an appropriate station. Have your child turn away from the television and guess what emotion an actor is showing based on the element in his voice.