• 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.
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.