What Is Cooperative Play? Benefits, Examples And Activities

Cooperative Play: Setting the Cornerstone to Your Child’s Behavioural and Cognitive Development

American sociologist Mildred Parten Newhall developed six types of plays for children of two to five years. Cooperative play is one of Parten‘s six types of play, with the others being unoccupied play, solitary play, onlooker play, parallel play, and associative play.

The types of play are designed to focus on the cognitive and social development of children, who are usually preschoolers. This post explains cooperative play, why it is important, and various games they can play at this stage.

What Is Cooperative Play?

Cooperative play involves the child playing with other children. It requires division of efforts among them to achieve a common group goal or specific tasks. While competitive games involve winners and losers, cooperative games involve problem-solving methods where everyone wins. Through this stage of play, children learn problem-solving, self-advocacy, decision-making skills, teamwork, sharing, and conflict resolution knowledge.

When Does Cooperative Play Begin?

The ideal time to integrate cooperative play is between four and six years (1). However, the child’s innate abilities, such as the exchange of ideas and role acceptance, are crucial for determining whether he/she is ready for starting cooperative play. They also need to understand the meaning of respect towards property rights, and the need to uphold and abide by rules.

For instance, a four-year-old child may not have sufficiently developed the ability to compromise with their toys. But at five years, sharing may increase their fun and happiness.

Why is Cooperative Play Important?

Cooperative play activities may be essential for the following reasons (2).

1. Reduces aggressive behavior and tendencies

Participating in various collaborative games can make children perceive and accept the differences brought out by increased social interactions. Through cooperative play, children tend to show positive behaviors, such as politeness and mutual respect, thereby helping control aggressive behavior.

2. Supports cooperation and shared goals

Collaboration helps children in social and academic interactions. Games that require increased cooperation provide scope for the development of social skills. Cooperative play allows children to observe different roles in the team and a new point of view. Some examples include agreement on the rules of games, completing structures by adding bits and pieces and linking different aspects to complete shared tasks.

3. Enhances communication and use of language

These skills aid in self-expression, enabling them to convey messages or decode information from their surroundings, thereby allowing them to perceive various situations. They also help improve listening skills and the ability to respect different perspectives.

4. Improves trust and conflict resolution

As a child sees their team members perform to their best effort, they build trust in each other. It makes them gain dependence on others by recognizing each other’s strengths. As trust builds, they learn to resolve their conflicts and work as a team.

5. Teaches self-regulation

Cooperative play requires children to regulate their emotions. Some of the critical aspects of such regulation include absorption of disappointment during a loss, restriction on immediate gratification, and proceeding in the game as a team.

6. Instills a sense of belonging

Cooperative play is inclusive, ensuring every child is involved. This instills a sense of belonging among participating players.

7. Supports problem-solving skill development

Children need to discuss and debate on the rules of the game, develop strategies to win the game, and overcome the hurdles that come their way. This imbibes problem-solving skills in them.

Cooperative Play Ideas And Activities

Some of the common cooperative play ideas and activities are:

Cooperative play has significant achievements in the overall cognitive development of early childhood. It provides a comprehensive range of learning. Therefore, you may need to design these games to instill social skills in the long run.


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