Sunday, August 1, 2010

Co-operative Play

"Please cooperate!" It's a plea we as parents make almost every day. It seems that we're constantly asking our children to share and cooperate with their friends, siblings, and us, their parents. And while they may not seem like they want to cooperate, the desire to do so is an important aspect of human nature. Cooperation is a key part of relating to others and forging meaningful relationships. Through team building and collaboration, a child learns to respect others and to control his own immediate needs and impulses. Learning to cooperate is essential, but doesn't mean that it's easy. The on-going struggle to get your child to share a toy or put his coat on is part of his experimentation with what is and isn't acceptable and his search for a balance between being a part of the group while still maintaining his sense of identity.
Young children will often play by themselves but next to another child, (Parallel play is a form of play where children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one an other's behavior. Parallel play usually involves two or more children in the same room. The children are interested in the same toys and both see the toy as belonging to them. The children do not play together, but alongside each other simply because they are in the same room. Parallel play is, usually, first observed in children of ages 2 or 3.) The amount of cooperative play increases as the children grow older. Some of this play may be child initiated, and some may be adult/teacher directed.

Working together, whether it's on a block building or planning a tea party, helps children to learn to respect the ideas of others. They develop their social skills, and social competence is an underlying goal of early childhood education. Children in cooperative play learn to contribute to joint efforts. They also learn how to problem solve by working together to find a solution.
Below are some ideas for games are perfect for involving friends and siblings.
Side-by-Side Science

• Create a garden. Block out part of your yard for an area where children can plant flowers and vegetables. Let your kids and their friends work together to make a drawing of the garden they'd like to create. As they plan and then work on their garden, point out how they're all contributing. Encourage them to take on different jobs, such as planting, monitoring, and watering. This project requires all of the little planters to share ideas and tasks: The bounty the garden bears will truly be the product of every one's labor.

Outdoor Activities (exercise their ability to cooperate as they build gross-motor skills.)

  • Construction site. As children play in the yard or sandbox with trucks, pails, and shovels, they can deliver the sand or dirt, pretending they are preparing a construction site. Each child can be a different kind of worker (such as steam shovel operator, trench digger, or truck driver). Encourage the little builders to take turns using different vehicles as they work on the project and collaborate on building something.

Artful Collaborations

Creating works of art is a wonderful way to promote cooperation while helping children develop their creative-thinking and fine-motor skills.

  • Table paint. Tape a large sheet of paper over a low table and let two or more children finger paint all over the paper. They'll love squishing their fingers and hands through the paint — and they'll each help to create a unique painting.
  • Build something. Using play dough or clay, children can collaborate on making a zoo, a pet shop, a bakery, a house, or a toyshop. Encourage them to help each other create the animals and objects that they want in their setting. Ask the kids to describe how they each contributed to the project.

Toys to Share

Not all toys lend themselves to cooperative play — some are simply best for alone time. When your child is having friends over or playing with a sibling, it's best to provide toys and games that work well with small groups. Try putting out these playthings, all of which are easy to share:

• Musical instruments: From maracas to tambourines, using instruments together allows children to make music they couldn't create on their own. When kids form a band, they hear the power of collaborating.

Puppets, dolls, and stuffed animals: Playmates can bring inanimate pals to life and act out tales and adventures with more than one character.

• Children's books: Kids love sharing cherished stories. Encourage them to each take on a different character's voice and make the sounds described in the story as they read or retell the tale together.

• Puzzles: Putting all the pieces in place is easier — and more enjoyable — when little problem solvers put their heads together.

• Figures, cars, and blocks: By building with blocks, adding figures, cars, road signs, and the like, children learn from one an other's ideas and see how the power of group play can add fun.

• Dress-up clothes: Old hats, bags, shoes, and shirts are perfect props for letting children share imaginative ideas and transform themselves into an infinite roster of roles.

Encourage taking turns
Create play situations that require two children to keep a game going so that they can enjoy the activity together. For example, they may enjoy climbing up the slide in your backyard and taking turns sliding down, then rushing back to climb up and slide down again! Or make a counting game when they are on the swings. First one gets a push, then the other gets a push, then one gets two pushes, and so on.

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