The conventional wisdom is that pitting children against one another is necessary preparation for surviving in the world of college and beyond. Today, some parents have taken that belief to heart, acting as though every other child is in direct competition with theirs for everything! But that approach doesn’t prepare children for the future world of negotiation, cooperation and collaboration with spouses, coworkers, neighbors, and others.
When children learn to cooperate rather than compete, good things happen. When they have the opportunity to work together toward a solution or common goal, they know that each individual contributes to the success of the venture. They also learn to solve problems in creative and productive ways, to become tolerant of others’ ideas, and to accept the similarities and differences of others. Perhaps most important to parents, cooperative activities are far less likely to cause the feelings of inferiority that so often result from competitive situations.
Of course, cooperative skills must be taught and practiced – just like good manners. Preschoolers are too egocentric to fully cooperate, although group games like Ring Around the Rosie and Follow the Leader are good preparation. But by the time children are in kindergarten and first grade, they’re ready to take on more complex challenges. Here are two games that help develop team spirit:
It Takes Two
This game requires partners to connect various body parts (matching parts like right hands, left elbows, or right feet; or nonmatching parts, like a hand and an elbow, an elbow and a shoulder, or a wrist and a hip). The partners then must find how many ways they can move without disconnecting!
With this game partners stand back to back until you call out the name of a body part or parts (for example, “hands” or “knees”). Partners then turn, bring together the body parts called out, and immediately get back to back again. When you call out “switcheroo” the children find new partners and the process starts again.
Yes, your child is going to have to compete to a certain extent in the “real” world. But the simple truth is that she’s more often going to need social and cooperative skills. Games like these can help teach them!