“Mommy, play with me! I want to be on your team,” your little one declares. Games can encourage her to be a team player and teach her to be cooperative with others while having a great time. Now, if you can just find time to play those games and get your work done, too. Maybe you can get Dad in on it. After all, he’s just a big kid anyway.
Board games such as Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders and You’re Bugging Me have been around for years and kids can learn valuable skills playing them. Your preschooler and toddler will enjoy choosing a game piece and moving it around the board. Board games help your child learn to take turns, share the dice and follow the rules together. Each child can team with an adult or older child who can read and explain the directions, keep the game on track and ensure that the kids play fairly. Have the kids say, “May I please have the dice?” when it is their turn and “thank you” when the dice is passed by another player. Children learn that the game is more fun and proceeds better when everyone is willing to take turns and follow the rules in a cooperative manner.
Card games are portable and many don’t require reading skills not yet acquired by preschoolers. With card games such as Go Fish, Uno, Skip Bo, Hearts and Spades, reading is minimal and children can play with a partner in paired teams where partners’ scores are added together to decide the winner. Older team members can help keep score, model appropriate turn-taking and good sportsmanship behavior and suggest game strategy to the younger, less experienced partner. Your child might need reminders to take turns, follow the rules and be a good loser (or winner!), which he can learn in cooperation with his teammate.
Little kids enjoy active games. Inside your home, a game of hot potato has kids cooperating to keep the potato moving. Follow-the-leader encourages kids to work together so the leader’s role can rotate between players. The followers cooperate by doing what the leader shows them to do. In a game of charades, preschoolers use a picture of an animal on a card to eliminate the need for reading. Teammates cooperatively rotate which team member acts out the animal while the opposing team tries to guess the animal. Charade teammates might cooperate by helping the acting member decide how to portray the animal. On a scavenger hunt, team members need to work together to find all the items on their list. The teams with the best cooperative skills will win, so a team leader might assign individual or pairs of teammates to hunt for specific items to decrease the amount of time it takes for the team to collect the items on their list.
Although organized sports are a great way to build a team and teach cooperation, you can teach team spirit, cooperation and enjoyment of an activity at home, too. Pull younger neighborhood kids together for a game of kickball, a water balloon or water gun fight, tag or a rollicking relay race. Kids learn that working together as a team increases their chances of winning and that cooperation can block the opposing team members from scoring. Encourage team members to listen to one another, follow instructions and rotate leadership so everyone has a chance to shine. Teammates can also cheer one another on, encouraging less skilled members to do their best and increase confidence so that the team benefits from every player.