Cooperative Games in Child Care

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Games are first and foremost an outlet for fun. Many active children's games also help develop motor skills, problem solving and language skills. However, competition is often the focus of young children's games. When there is an emphasis on winning and losing children can frequently be left on the sidelines with a sense of failure and incompetence.

Musical Chairs is a prime example of a game the does more to exclude children rather than involve them. This popular game often becomes a pushing battle for the few remaining competitors while the other children are left as bored spectators. Fortunately, there are many games that focus on fun rather than competition. These games promote a sense of teamwork and cooperation that reaches well beyond the playground. I have included some of my favorites, including a new twist on Musical Chairs.

Cooperative Musical Chairs

This game is very similar to the original version, with the same setup of two lines of chairs back to back. Make sure there is one chair LESS than the amount of players. Began playing music while children dance or march around the chairs. When the music stops everyone needs to find a seat. The goal is ensure everyone has a place! As the game continues remove an additional chair after each round. With a smaller amount of chairs available, children will find the need to work together and cooperate in order to find room for everyone. This may mean sitting on laps and sharing chairs. Please note: no one is eliminated or asked to wait in this version.

Sharks in the Water

This game operates on the same premise as Cooperative Musical Chairs. Outline a large square on the floor with either masking tape or chalk. This area is the safe island and the area surrounding the square is the ocean. When the music begins children "swim" around the island. The stopping of the music indicates that sharks are coming and all player must retreat to the safety of the island. With each round the lines are altered making the island smaller and smaller. Players must make work together to make sure everyone has a safe place to get away from the sharks.

Mirror Mirror

The is a game that can be played with partners or with a larger group. A leader is chosen to initiate movements the others are to try to mimic as quickly as possible so that it appears they are a mirror image of the leader. A more challenging version for older children is to eliminate the leader. Players are to both move and simultaneously mimic each other.

Keep it Up

Blow up one or more balloons depending on the number of players. The simple goal is to work together and keep the balloon in the air. For younger children you may to have them stand or sit in a circle. You can add challenge for older children by restricting how they may elevate the balloon not allowing them to use their hands or only their elbows etc.,

Ball Bounce

You can use a parachute or large sheet for this game. Players hold and stretch the edges of the parachute. A ball is placed in the center. By all players gently tugging up and down they can cause the ball to bounce. Players can see how long they can keep the ball going without it bouncing off the surface. More balls can be added for additional challenge and fun.

Dragon Tail

Players form one long line or train by holding onto the waist of the child in front of them. The child in the front becomes the dragon head. The child in the rear is the dragon tail and a colorful scarf is attached into a belt loop. The "head" is to try to catch the scarf flapping behind the "tail". All of the other players, members of the "body", are compelled to work together with both ends and both the goal of the head and the tail at that same time. The main objective throughout is to keep the dragon intact with no players letting go. This game is best for older children and requires a large area.

Human Pretzel

Players form a circle. Each player reaches into the circle with their right hand and clasps hands with anyone across from them. Then each player clasps their left hand with a different player. Two people are then designated to be the ends. One end player is to release their right hand from whoever has a hold on it and the other end player is to release their left hand. By stepping over, under, and around each other; the group needs to work together to untangle their big human pretzel. Again, players are to try to accomplish this without releasing their hands.