“Beat you to the door!”
“Beat you upstairs!”
“Look, I have the biggest carrot stick!”
“She has 8 grapes, but I only have 7….”
Competition is everywhere we look. The other day I was at a parent’s meeting for a (non-sport) evening activity, and the coordinator talked about the importance of teaching our kids to compete well, and how part of their program was designed to do just that. While I’m sure that holds some amount of water in some parents’ minds, I began to wonder- why can’t we intentionally be teaching our kids to cooperate well too?
My husband and I have set out to do our best to help our kids’ reflex be to cooperate instead of compete. One way we are starting to do this is through board games. Our family really loves to play games (of course, there are those times when game night goes bad… :)), so we’ve decided to turn our play time into a time of cooperation and collaboration instead of competition.
As we set out on this quest, I stumbled across a website called www.cooperativegames.com. This website is an EXCELLENT resource if you are curious about the idea and value of cooperative gaming. I spent several nights on the website, reading and learning more about the various cooperative games that are on the market. The owner of Cooperative Games, Suzanne Lyons, is a mom and an educator who cares deeply about this as well, and has written a great free ebook that you can find on the website here.
To help give us an encouraging start in our cooperative board game experiment, Suzanne not only sent me a list of her favorite cooperative games, but a couple of the games themselves. One of the games is called Max the Cat, and is intended for elementary kids. In this game, the players work together to get squirrel, mouse, and bird to their homes before Max the Cat eats them. Players have to work together (making decisions, etc.) in order to succeed!
Not only did we LOVE to hear our kids play a game together without yelling (or pouting at the end when they lost), but they had a great time playing it. It’s fun to hear them strategizing together, and all being excited at the end if they get all the critters to their homes safely. If they aren’t successful as a team, they are determined to do better the next time, and talk about what they should have done differently.
We’ve become a bit of cooperative board game evangelists with this one– we’ve played it with family, friends, neighbors, and each other. I was a bit concerned that perhaps cooperative games wouldn’t really be…well, fun. But the kids love it and don’t mind not competing!
Turn your Existing Board Games into Cooperative Games
While all board games cannot be turned into cooperative games, Jake and I have been working on doing just that with a few of the games we already have while we slowly build our cooperative game closet.
MEMORY: Instead of seeing who can get the most matches, we see how many tries it takes (collectively) for us to find all the matches. We use an abacus to help us easily keep track.
CANDYLAND: This game is a staple in most game closets, and actually lends itself quite well to collaborative gaming if you read the story on the inside of the box before you play. The kids are working to find King Candy– not competing, but together! So, we play according to the rules, but instead of cheering when someone gets a card that sends them back, we encourage them that they can catch up! Then, whoever wins invites the other players to come up and feast on King Candy’s castle.
BLOKUS: We use the gameboard and pieces to complete various challenges together, such as
Can we place all the tiles in such a way that no colors are touching themselves?
Can we place all the tiles on the board so that there are no holes?
There are lots of games that do not have to be bought, but can just be played freely! Cooperative Games lists a lot of them, and most of these I got from them.
Building with blocks or making a sandcastle
Going on a scavenger hunt
Even if your family is a fan of competition, a little break from it every now and then would probably do everyone a bit of good! Be sure to check out Cooperative Games’ website for some of the games that are out there. You might be really surprised! AND stay tuned for another game review on Wednesday, Preschooler in the Kitchen as well as some reflections on cooperation and the Kingdom of God on Friday.