You’ve discovered the world of Cooperative Play. Welcome!

CooperativeGames.com is a little shop in Nevada City, California nestled in the great Sierra Nevada mountains (between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.) Our mission is to provide products that foster cooperative play. It’s also our goal to promote understanding and circulate information about why and how parents, educators, and everyone else can benefit by engaging in playful collaboration.

Every product in our store has been carefully hand-selected as an item that works to bring out the cooperative spirit. We work with manufacturers who practice environmental sustainability and fair trade practices through the use of recycled and sustainably produced materials. As much as possible, the items in our store are made in the U.S. Domestic production helps support our economy, it keeps jobs in the US which supports the middle class, and it helps in verifying the sustainability/fair trade practices of manufacturers.

Our prices are as low as possible. We have to keep the lights on, so we can’t engage in the kinds of hypercompetitive price-slashing that the big retailers sometimes use.  We don’t use computer programs that sniff out the lowest prices on the web for given products then reduce our price by a penny or two to capture your business. Yuk–that’s hypercompetition and it’s unsustainable.  Another business practice grounded in a cooperative mindset is that we strive to “co-exist” rather than “compete” with other merchants. To each, his own. Let’s hope there are many companies that will earn a living through cooperative play in the future. We don’t have to be the biggest one or the only one; we just have to be ourselves–CooperativeGames.com. Good Wishes for Peace and Prosperity to All. Period.

We use recycled shipping materials whenever possible and use compostable packing “peanuts” to protect your games when that makes sense. We ship mainly via the US Postal Service because the post office delivers your mail to you anyway—there’s no extra trip via a private shipping company required.  That cuts down on the use of fossil fuels. Yay for that!

Oh, one more thing you should know: We give 10% of our profits to charity. When you purchase from us, part of the money you spend goes to support alternative schools, human rights, and the environment.

Who Runs the Store?

This Web shop, www.CooperativeGames.com is owned and managed by me–Suzanne Lyons. I am a mom of two teenagers, I have co-authored two textbook programs (Conceptual Integrated Science and Explorations, published by Pearson). My degrees are in physics, Earth science, and science education, plus I have a CA teaching credential. I’ve taught science and math in middle school and high school and lectured in Teacher Education at the University level. I love what I have seen cooperative games do to sustain positive group dynamics in families, schools, the workplace, and other social organizations. Take it from me—the best cooperative games really do bring out the best in us! That’s why this web site has become my passion project and small business.

As parents and teachers, we know cooperation is a good thing to foster, but the question arises—how do we do it? Especially in our hypercompetitive society, cooperation can be hard to establish. Strategies for cooperative learning are well-known, but my experience with cooperative learning strategies is mixed. Kids feel forced to “cooperate” through prescribed roles and the joy in collaboration can easily be lost. The answer to this dilemma, I believe, is cooperative play. In play, we practice how to be in the world. The mind is relaxed and open. When play is cooperative, cooperative skills are learned authentically through personal experience. Then the discovery of cooperative habits can last a lifetime.

Cooperative games and playful cooperative activities are transformative tools. They are fun! But they can be used to address real problems too: Cooperative games for kids and older students help establish positive classroom community, they promote good student-teacher relations and they can help prevent bullying and reduce anxiety in the classroom. With so much competition and scripted curriculum in the schools these days, cooperative games are a welcome relief—a bit of freedom in an otherwise tightly controlled school day. As far as parenting is concerned, I have seen cooperative games diffuse sibling rivalry and prevent the emotional melt-downs that often come along with aggressive, competitive play.

Research on cooperative games is beginning to assemble a critical mass. It’s part of my job to do research on cooperative play as well as collect what research is out there and bring it to you. And there are so many great cooperative play products and tools to choose from these days with more coming on line all the time. Cooperative circle games, cooperative PE games, cooperative board games and cooperative card games …. Books, and blogs, and more… Truly you can get started today. The time is right to discover the magic and let the games begin! Click here to start shopping, click here to visit the Educator’s hub, and click here for Fun and Free games.

How Did CooperativeGames.com Get Started?

Here is the story of how this business came to be: My husband, Pete, and I watched our kids play competitive sports through childhood and vie for the “Principal’s Award” in school. While basketball, Spelling Bees and other competitive activities have an upside, they also promote aggression and stress and lead to bruised feelings. Likewise, competitive board games can often bring out feelings of anger, defeat, selfishness, or aggression.

As parents, we felt that kids have more than enough exposure to competition. What’s needed now is better exposure to the joys of cooperation! And as an Earth scientist, I am keenly aware that the natural world is in peril. People need to cooperate to find solutions and share resources. Further, as a teacher, I’ve seen too much competition in the classroom. It disadvantages lots of kids and takes the focus off of real, self-motivated learning and discovery.

A few years ago, I had finished writing my second science textbook program “Conceptual Integrated Science”, published by Pearson. The book was a success, but now I was ready to try something brand new. With this mental backdrop, I attended a workshop for nature educators near my home in Northern California. At the workshop, I met a very interesting woman from the Netherlands—Anne Mijke van Harten. Anne runs a thriving Web shop in the Netherlands specializing in cooperative games (www.EarthGames.nl). Hmmm . . . interesting, I thought. Cooperative Games—fun, educational, and a chance to escape the competitive paradigm all at once. Brilliant! Anne shared what she knows about the theory and practice of cooperative games with me. She’s a play therapist and teacher trainer in Holland. Cooperative games are quite popular in Europe. After our workshop, Anne came to stay at my house for a few days. While here, we discovered that I live close to Ken and Jann Kolsbun. The Kolsbuns are two of the early pioneers of cooperative games, actually the first people to design a line of cooperative games in the United States. We arranged to meet.

We learned that Ken and Jann had a business called Animal Town that produced a catalog of beautiful toys and games for many years. Animal Town was later named Child and Nature. During Ken and Jann’s career, they invented Save the Whales, Nectar Collector, Dam Builders and other classic cooperative games. Many people grew up playing and loving those games—and I hear from you quite often!

When Anne and I met with Ken, we were surprised to learn that Ken’s small company was for sale. At the time, my husband had just been laid off from his job (a casualty of the Great Recession). So Pete and I bought Animal Town from Ken and Jann, and here I am talking to you today. My initial plan was to take over the Animal Town/Child and Nature store that the Kolsbuns had developed. But after a short while, I decided to start anew with a business that focuses just on cooperative play. With my background as educator and parent, I felt I could build an entire shop and resource center around the theme of cooperative play, collect and disseminate needed information, and help promote awareness of why cooperative games are so useful. So I founded CooperativeGames.com, the only web site in the U.S. (as far as I know) that is dedicated exclusively to cooperative play. Pete and I thank Ken and Jann and Anne in the Netherlands for introducing us to cooperative games. We carry a range of cooperative play products. Staples include Animal Town’s original cooperative board game Save the Whales. We carry a large selection of wonderful board games from Family Pastimes up in Canada. Jim and Ruth Deacove of Family Pastimes are pretty much the founding parents of the cooperative board games movement and we all owe a great deal to their original vision. (Plus they are super nice folks!) We carry cooperative toys like tea sets, blocks, and puzzles—sustainably produced by conscientious manufacturers of course! We carry items for active cooperative play and cooperative PE games such as big balls, jump ropes, and parachutes. Plus we have books and freebie games to share (see Fun and Free.) We carry super cute new cooperative games from Peaceable Kingdom that you may have seen in the media lately, including Hoot Owl Hoot and Count Your Chickens. We have Classics such as Pandemic, Wildcraft, Snails’s Pace Race, the Yoga Garden Game, and more. Also we carry some great indie games that haven’t been widely discovered, for instance the fantastic new cooperative board game Co-Opoly by TESA, which is a fun and thoughtful introduction to co-op philosophy!  We have personally read all the books on our site and recommend them highly. I (Suzanne Lyons) am currently writing a book on cooperative play and will be sharing material from it with you on this site. And last but perhaps most importantly, we are developing cooperative play programs for schools. Our programs use cooperative games to teach math, science, language arts, social studies, and PE as well as establish kind and caring classroom communities. The programs feature bundled resources as well as lesson plans. Check the Educator’s Hub!

In the future, we look forward to developing more cooperative board games and playthings and educational tools for schools, families, and groups as we go on. We hope to republish Ken and Jann Kolsbun’s classic Animal Town games too.

So that is the happy story CooperativeGames.com. It is an exciting time to be in this business. Cooperation has never been more important. And with cooperative games, it has never been more fun!

A note from Ken and Jann Kolsbun

After owning and operating Animal Town for over two decades (1976-2000) and Child and Nature (2003 to 2009), we are tickled pink that Suzanne and Pete, with their interesting backgrounds and capable skills, are making a new business inspired by Animal Town that highlights cooperative games. Suzanne is an educator, author, and public speaker. Pete has worked in various companies in the information technology field. They are parents of two children and are keenly aware of the needs of families and children in this very competitive society. We wholeheartedly offer them our support and blessing. We have passed word of them to the great and loyal customers we have had over the years. We want to thank you, our customers, for your support over several decades. We have moved on to a semi-retired life, but are still inventing board games, writing books, enjoying our grandchildren and promoting cooperative play. It has been a great ride–Ken and Jann Kolsbun