- Cooperative Games reduce aggression in young children. See the study “Cooperative Games in Young Children: A Way to Modify Aggression” by April Bay Hinitz et al; 1994; University of Nevada, Reno.
- Cooperative Games increase pro-social skills including sharing and kindness. See studies by Terry Orlick and others.
- Though cooperative games have not been studied extensively, as they are not widely known about, they are both a form of cooperative learning and of course a form of play. There’s an enormous amount of scholarship and research documenting the benefits of both cooperative learning (see for example the brothers Johnson at the University of Minnesota) and the benefits of play (see for example the work of Peter Gray or Stuart Brown.) Benefits of cooperative learning include increased mastery of content and reduced classroom management and discipline problems while play is known to be essential for mental health and intellectual development. Cooperative play has all of the benefits of cooperative learning as well as play, since it is a form of both!
- Cooperative games have been shown to be useful in therapy situations to enhance communication skills of autistic and socially withdrawn children.
- Cooperative games are inclusive so they promote a “sense of belonging”. The importance of a sense of belonging in academic achievement has been documented by Jeffrey Cohen at Stanford and others.
- Cooperative games are fun as documented by Terry Orlick and others. Fun and happiness are beginning to be appreciated as important in their own right on humanitarian grounds. Consider for example the UN declaration on the right of children to play. Also positive psychology is beginning to document the value of happiness in human health.
- Cooperative games build empathy because the underlying ethic is mutual care and concern as opposed to the dog-eat-dog, “nice guys finish last” ethos that characterizes hypercompetitive society.
- Cooperative games help develop problem-solving skills.
- Cooperative play gives children practice working together which prepares them for cooperative learning and collaborative learning teaching strategies.
- Cooperative games provide a break from excess competition. (As documented in No Contest, The Case Against Competition, competition has many downsides including that it increases anxiety in children and reduces equity. Yet most schooling is competitively structured. For this reason it is important to give children a break from the destructive effects of excess competition.)
- Cooperative games can promote group cohesion and group identity.
- They are inclusive so no one wastes valuable class time sitting idly on the sidelines.
- Many cooperative games are physically active games so they help children stay physically fit.
- They allow kids practice taking turns and being courteous, which is a valuable life skill.
- They prepare kids for working life where team-playing is the norm.
- They prevent emotional meltdowns/embarrassment/meanness that commonly occur in competitive situations.
- Cooperative games build healthy relationships because they allow children to interact respectfully with one another and enjoy one another’s company.
- When adults give children cooperative play opportunities, they communicate to children that cooperation is a valued social norm. Thus cooperative games help build a positive social climate, which feels safe and enjoyable for children.
- Cooperative games open the heart because they activate mutual appreciation, and feelings of love and kindness. Thus they are a form of holistic learning (which can be summarized as learning that involves hand, heart, and mind.)
- Because children learn through play, children learn to cooperate through cooperative play. Cooperation is an essential social and emotional skill with a thousand benefits including that it is necessary for social relationships, success in the workplace, and for peaceful living in the larger society.
- Cooperative games teach kindness and fairness and demonstrate the increased productivity that comes from working with one’s fellow humans. Thus they model the kind of social interaction that is needed in the 21st century global community with its many intertwined social and environmental challenges. Thus, playing cooperative games help children become the kinds of citizens who can create and enjoy a sustainable and equitable society. In other words, cooperative games help build a better world, and this is their ultimate benefit for everyone—children and grown-ups alike.
Cooperative games can be used to teach all school subjects. There’s a good chance you have heard about cooperative games used in PE classes. For example, Waldorf movement classes center on active cooperative games. And Play Works, the popular provider of recess-based play programs to urban public schools, use cooperative PE games too. As Waldorf and Play Works show, athletic cooperative games combine play with sports and social-emotional learning to make PE fun, inclusive, and successful for everyone.
But did you know that cooperative games are not just for the playground, they can be used inside the classroom too? Cooperative games have many social-emotional learning (SEL) benefits and they make great sense from a pedagogical standpoint. Think of it this way: cooperative games combine the pedagogical advantages of cooperative learning with the merits of play-based learning.
Cooperative Learning + Play-Based Learning = Cooperative Games
This is a powerful combo! Teachers already rely on cooperative learning and play-based learning because we all know how essential these approaches are. With all of their advantages, why not combine cooperative learning with play-based learning for an even more powerfully positive teaching tool?
So teachers, child-care providers, and home-schooling parents: When you’re planning lessons, consider adding cooperative games to your SEL curricula as well as your subject area teaching—for language arts, math, science or just about any other subject.
Here is a cooperative game for the classroom that can be adapted to different subject areas and age levels. The version below is for Kindergarten-level math. It will get you started:
Where can you get more cooperative games suited to classroom learning? Check my website CooperativeGames.com which has loads of resources for teachers including instructions for free cooperative games that can be used to teach various subject areas. I also offer a variety of cooperative board games, books, and services for educators for purchase. For example:
* The Baby Beluga Game This is a cooperative board game for kids ages 3-10, made in the USA from sustainable materials. I designed and published it through my small company Child and Nature. The Baby Beluga Game teaches STEM along with SEL and was created in collaboration with Raffi. https://shop.cooperativegames.com/BabyBelugaGame_p/101.htm
* The Cooperative Games Classroom Kit The kit consists of my book, The Cooperative Games Bullying Prevention Program, plus The Baby Beluga Game and four fabulous research-tested Family Pastimes games including Max and Harvest Time. The Classroom Kit is a great starter kit for using cooperative games in Pre-K to Grade 2+ classroom. It provides classroom tips, directions to active games, research as well as cooperative board games kids will love. https://cooperativegames.com/classroom-kit/
* Professional Development When you are ready to dive deeper and become an expert in using cooperative play in your school, schedule a webinar or workshop with me for professional development As a former classroom teacher, I specialize in practical tips and teaching strategies, sound resources, sharing the latest research—plus sharing joyful inspiration and encouragement. Workshops are fun, important, and very well-received. https://cooperativegames.com/professional-development-for-teachers/
Let’s Play Together! Good Luck and Have Fun-
Will Baby Beluga be able to make the journey? In this new cooperative board game for children ages 3-10, Baby Beluga and his Friends have a common goal: to swim so wild and swim so free, together of course! But there could be trouble along the way. To get Baby Beluga and his friends to the Wild and Free Zone, players work together using their hearts and their smarts. Players move the wooden figures of Baby Beluga and his Friends along the lavishly illustrated game board, which shows the Arctic environment in all its natural beauty. Through play, children learn the joys of working together as well as some fun and fascinating environmental science.
Suitable for homes, classrooms, and any setting where children gather to have fun, avoid screens, exercise their imaginations, and explore the natural world.
The Baby Beluga Game takes about 15 minutes to play. It’s suitable for 1-8 players. There are three levels of play, with the easy version accessible to children as young as 3. The most challenging and educational version is exciting for children ages 10+. Teachers, note that The Baby Beluga Game teaches both STEM and SEL!
This cooperative board game for kids was created with the loving support and input of Raffi, famed children’s entertainer and songwriter of Baby Beluga. It was designed by Suzanne Lyons, a teacher and founder of Cooperative Games.com as well as owner of the independent publishing company Child and Nature. The original watercolor artwork was created by Ashley Wolff, talented illustrator of the classic Baby Beluga children’s book. It was manufactured in California, USA from sustainable materials and exceeds child safety requirements.
To purchase in the United States, please visit CooperativeGames.com https://cooperativegames.com/
Canadian customers, please purchase The Baby Beluga Game through Amazon.ca at https://www.amazon.ca/Child-and-Nature-BabyBeluga/dp/B07BKR72KD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533166065&sr=8-1&keywords=baby+beluga+game
I thank LovePeaceHarmony.org for this charming story about cooperation. Share it with the children in your life if you think it will help them understand the meaning of cooperation.
Tucked away into the Himalayas the wondrous kingdom of Bhutan has a some beautiful stories. This story is about four friends, an elephant, a monkey, a peacock and a rabbit. This is a well known story all over Bhutan. In the beginning, the four friends were not friends. They argued about who had the right to a fruit tree, whose delicious fruit was enjoyed by all of them. This argument stopped when a man overruled them and claimed ownership of the fruit tree. The four friends wondered what to do to get the fruit they all loved. They wanted to help each other so they became friends.
“ I will plant a seed in the ground,” the peacock said.
“I will water it,” the rabbit said.
“I will fertilise it,” said the monkey.
“I will protect it,” said the elephant.
The seed grew and grew until it became a tree. On the tree came the lovely fruit. Now the four friends had a problem. They could see the fruits but they could not reach them. So they made a tower by climbing on each other’s backs; first the elephant, then the monkey, the rabbit, and finally the peacock. Through their friendship and cooperation the four were able to share their favorite fruit. In Bhutan’s national language, Dzongkha, the story is called Thuenpa puen shi, which means cooperation, relation, four.
For more about the PeaceLoveHarmony project visit https://lovepeaceharmony.org/
Here we are in late March 2017, in the midst of a cultural crisis characterized by seemingly intransigent social division. We distrust one another deeply as we drift farther and farther apart, huddling in opposing corners. Emotions flare as distrust hardens into animosity and even hatred.
Whoa! We are headed past conflict and into aggression. In The Psychology of Group Aggression, Syracuse University Social Psychologist Alfred P. Goldstein explains that when people divide into groups, bias inevitably occurs, competition soon follows, and aggression is often not far behind.1 That is, multiple studies have shown that just by virtue of dividing into groups, people inevitably develop biases. Those in one’s own group are seen to have exaggerated positive qualities (this distortion is called “in-group favoritism”) while those outside the group are attributed with exaggerated negative qualities (known to sociologists as “out-group discrimination.”) Given these distorted perceptions, competition ensues as each group vies to protect its own position against the inferior “Other”. Once there is competition, anger and fear are natural consequences since by definition, in competition someone must win and someone must lose. Fear and anger are emotions underpinning aggression. And so we see how easy it is to slide from division to competition to fear and anger and ultimately into aggression.
Professor Goldstein studied many methods of reducing aggression among social groups but the one approach he found to be most successful was cooperative games!2 You can read more about the details of Professor Goldstein’s work in my book The Cooperative Games Bullying Prevention Program but suffice it to say that the good doctor has given us a prescription that we can easily and happily implement. It makes sense to play cooperative games in the workplace, in school settings, and other public settings where differences in political viewpoints are present. Playing with one another where all participants have the same objective (a “super-ordinate goal”), heals divisions and thereby defuses hostility and the potential for aggression. Instead of experiencing one another as members of rival groups, in a cooperative game, everyone is on the same team. We enjoy one another again! Joy! And we see that we can accomplish our goals by working with one another rather than against each other.
There is much more to say about how cooperative games can help us psychologically and culturally in these troubled times. Stay tuned for more blog posts from me. Meanwhile I bet you’ll have your own ideas on the topic. Please feel free to express your comments on this blog or any of the social media sites supporting Cooperative Games.com. Here’s to you, your precious life, and your desire to find a path to peace and joy through cooperative play!
You can find a variety of cooperative games at CooperativeGames.com . Many are free. Some are available for purchase.
1 Arnold P. Goldstein, The Psychology of Group Aggression (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2002), 4-10
2 Goldstein, 146-148