Character and strong identities are built through
cooperative experiences and not through competitive and
individualistic experiences. The ability of children to
cooperate with other people is the keystone to building and
maintaining stable families and career success.
Parents can help provide some of these cooperative experiences
at home this summer through the use of non-competitive sports and games.
Many children learn to hate sports because they are not
physically able to compete with their peers. Since most
sports are competitive, these children experience rejection and
failure again and again. They are not picked for teams. If the adult in charge forces other children to put them on the team, they feel even worse and are often ostracized by their peers when they come in last and the prize is lost. Cooperative games offer an alternative to these highly organized and strongly goal-oriented sports.
In cooperative games, the children play with one another rather than against one another. They are working toward a mutual goal in addition to developing skills. There is also a sense of fun in the games. Children do not have to be good to have fun and the less skillful children are not eliminated. An example would be the game of musical
chairs. You do not eliminate the child without a chair. This person simply sits on someone’s lap. At the end, it becomes a test to see how the whole group manages to get on that one chair.
Almost any activity can be made cooperative. For example instead of competitive volleyball play rotational volleyball. In this version, instead of rotating within the team, the players rotate through both teams. When the game is over, everyone will have been on both teams at least once. Thi same concept can be used in other games by having entire offensive and defensive teams change sides.
There are many cooperative games which families can play together because there is no distinction made because of age. A six year old can help out an adult. Families can try cooperative Chinese Checkers or Charades.
Mountaineering is another cooperative game. In this game, players work as a team to get to the summit. They share equipment, plan strategies together and handle whatever troubles come their way. Easy card symbols allow young player to join the older ones, while complicated maneuvers challenge the older players.
One parent commented that she had stopped playing games with her six- and four-year-olds because every game ended in anger and tears until she discovered the cooperative game called “Harvest Time.” In this game the gardens are all planted and everyone takes turns rolling the big wooden die to do the harvesting. The object of the game is to do the harvesting before winter comes. If you get your garden harvested before winter comes, you then work to get your neighbor’s garden harvested too.
Another interesting game is called “Maze.” It has the flavor of chess but players need each other’s help for both to win. There are non-competitive card games for the family to play and everybody can participate from the five year olds in the family to the adults.
Instead of watching television one night this summer, try playing some non-competitive, cooperative, family games.