Competition is a part of life and everyone likes to win. For children, losing can be especially disheartening.
Years ago, most games that were played in classrooms and on playgrounds were very competitive – there were clear winners and losers.
Today, however, we are learning that it can benefit children to play games that encourage a cooperative spirit, rather than a win/lose scenario.
Many of the best non-competitive games offer the opportunity to learn as well as have fun.
Cooperative games encourage children to help each other and look at “winning” as a group effort. If the goal is merely to help each other and have fun, then everyone goes away happy.
Circle Stories: Children create a story together, one line at a time.
One child offers the opening sentence (“One upon a time there was a boy who wanted a puppy.”) and then one by one, each child adds a line to build the story, making the rounds through the group as many times as needed.
Since there are many storytellers, the tale often takes some unexpected twists and turns, which is enjoyable for all. Expect lots of giggles as this game progresses!
Copy Cats: Gather the children outside or inside where there is plenty of room for movement.
Play some lively music and encourage the children to dance freely. One by one, the children take turns being the leader.
Whatever movements are made by the leader should be mimicked by the other players.
This game allows the children to enjoy some healthy exercise while having a lot of fun.
Quack, Oink, Moo! This is a fun game for a large group of children and is well suited for the classroom as well as for children’s parties.
Think of animals that make distinct noises, such as dogs, cats, ducks, pigs, cows, and horses.
Whisper the name of one of these animals to each child, being sure that each animal is mentioned to at least two children.
Instruct the children to go about making the sound of their assigned animal and then try to find the other children who are representing the same one.
Beware — this game can get pretty noisy!
Freeze Up: Play music for a group of children and tell them that they are to dance while the music is going, but must freeze and hold their position as soon as the music stops.
Each time you stop the music, wait for a moment before you restart it to give the children a chance to see each other in silly poses.
Modern Musical Chairs: This game is played in much the same manner as the traditional version, but no one is out of the game.
Instead, as each chair is removed, the children sit on each others laps on the remaining chairs until the end, when all children are piled in one giggling heap on the last remaining chair.
Stop-n-Go: Instruct a group of children to hold hands and form a circle. To begin the game, the adult supervisor yells, “Go!” The children then walk around in a circle until on of them yells, “Stop!”
The child who yelled stop then says something nice about the child located to their right. The adult again yells, “Go!” and the game continues until each child has had a turn.
As children age, they will certainly be exposed to competition in games, athletics, and academics.
For older children, this competition can encourage them to give their best effort and strive for success.
Younger children, however, are best suited for games that are designed merely for fun.
Participating in cooperative games increases a sense of teamwork as well individual self-esteem. Everybody wins!