Instead of having just one winner, how about introducing some fun games which foster co-operative play and teamwork and no-one’s the loser? Sound more fair? Read on!
What do you call a game where everyone plays together, where no one is left out, and everyone enjoys themselves? Can such a thing exist in a world which is becoming increasingly ‘dog eat dog’ for many people, as our growing global population competes for a slice of the proverbial pie?
Never fear. Games like this do exist and are becoming refreshingly popular in education circles. They are called co-operative games. Most of our traditional games tend to have one winner and one, or many, losers. In a co-operative game, the players work as a team to solve a problem. Co-operative games can add a fresh new perspective to learning and open up pathways that foster camaraderie and community spirit.
This is because co-operative games emphasise participation, challenge, sharing, compromise and encourage fun, rather than defeating someone. On a very basic level, co-operative games are all about play rather than competition. The most important principle is that each person has the opportunity to be involved in making a contribution to the outcome of the whole.
In this way, co-operative games provide an active role for all children, in a non-elimination environment. This tends to result in an ‘everyone’s a winner’ outcome, an outcome that can have far-reaching effects for self-esteem and the development of communication skills. Learning to deal with stress together and support each other is an integral part of the co-operative process.
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to playing a co-operative game. Failure is recognised as a crucial part of the process of problem solving. It is okay to fail and then try another method, working together to come up with different solutions. Failure gives participants the opportunity to review, reflect, reorganise strategies, and redirect their efforts toward the successful outcome.
Co-operative games provide an active role for all children, in a non-elimination environment. This tends to result in an “everyone’s a winner” outcome, an outcome that can have far-reaching effects for self-esteem and the development of communication skills.
Co-operative Games for Your Family
1. Baby in the Blanket
While this game may seem like a game for ‘babies’, it is in fact a perfect game for people of all ages to play together, especially when communicating the principles of co-operation to a young member of a family or group. If there are very tall adults and very small children, the adults can kneel down to make it easier for the children to control their side of the blanket.
Give each person a corner of a blanket to hold. Place a soft toy or ‘baby’ in the centre of the blanket.
The aim is to keep the baby safe. Participants work together to use the blanket to throw the baby up into the air and catch it on its way back down. It takes co-operation to make this happen! If you have enough people to have two blankets going, you can toss the baby back and forth between you for an added challenge.
This is a co-operative version of musical chairs, and is ideal to play with people of all ages. Before and during the game, you’ll need to demonstrate to the participants how to help each other get inside a hoop. Make it clear that they all need to co-operate: no excluding or pushing. They can pick each other up, piggy back and hold onto each other for support if necessary.
You will need several hula hoops (one hoop per two participants to start with) scattered about a play area.
Using music as a signal for movement, encourage stepping or dancing around the playing area, anywhere except inside a hoop. When the music stops, everyone finds a hoop and steps inside. Two or more people can be inside one hoop and to be inside, a person must have at least one foot inside the hoop (but if there is a foot outside the hoop, it must not be touching the ground).
If someone is not inside a hoop, ask others to invite him or her in so that no one gets left out. As the game continues, remove one hoop at a time until the participants cannot possibly squeeze any more people into the hoops. Invariably, this produces lots of laughing and crazy balancing acts.
3. Stones Throw
You will need 6–8 small stones for this simple game invented by my 10-year-old son and his father.
Two people sit facing each other, about 1m apart. One person holds a small stone in their hand. They toss it to the other person and that person tries to catch it with one hand.
The main idea is to make it as easy as possible for the other person to catch the stones. If you catch the stones successfully, your ‘team’ gets one point. If you drop one stone, then as a team, you don’t lose a point but if you drop both stones, your ‘team’ loses a point.
Once either one of the players has successfully caught two stones, they move onto three stones and so on. The scoring system basically stays the same; if you drop two or more stones, you lose a point. Remember, it is one score between two people co-operating. You set yourself a goal, for example, get to 10 points and then it’s game over.
Kristina Jensen is a poet, freelance writer, musician and home school parent living on a boat with her family in the Marlborough Sounds.
more games from tots to teens: