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Children of all ages enjoy playing. From a psychological perspective, playing has a central role in the development of essential cognitive, emotional, and social skills for all children. As they get older, their playing can be classified into four different types; solitary play, parallel play, associative play, and finally cooperative play. Emerging as the final mode of play, cooperative play is an important social skill that helps children form meaningful connections, bonds, and adhere to the rules of collective activity. Continue reading for all you need to know about it and how you can help your child get better at cooperative play.
What Is Meant by Collaborative or Cooperative or Social Play?
Infants, early in life, begin with a solitary play where they play alone without being aware of the presence of others in the game. Between the ages of 2 and 3, babies start to play alongside other children without influencing each other in what is known as parallel play. Associative play is what emerges next where children have social interactions and engage in a common activity involving the exchange of toys and verbal chatter. Around the age of 5, cooperative play emerges in children where they assume reciprocal roles and play games with shared goals and a common narrative.
As the most complex type of game children engage in, cooperative play is important to teach them social rules such as sharing, cooperation, taking turns, and handling disagreements. They also participate in establishing rules, take leadership roles, and negotiate responsibilities which ultimately contribute to forming meaningful friendships. Although the less mature forms of play are present in children as they grow older, collaborative play is the most dominant one. An example of a complex collaborative play is the fantasy game “cops and robbers”.
Why Is Cooperative Play Important?
Cooperative play is viewed by psychologists as a milestone in child development. Here are some benefits of cooperative play:
- Cooperative games are important to reduce aggression in children. The more they engage in such games, the more social skills they pick up of being courteous.
- Cooperative games are known to increase pro-social skills such as sharing, empathy, and kindness, which are essential life skills.
- It is seen that collaborative play in early childhood education has several benefits, including reduced discipline and classroom management, intellectual development, and increased mastery of content. Cooperative play has benefited very similarly to cooperative learning.
- When it comes to therapy situations of socially withdrawn or autistic children, cooperative games have a positive effect on the sessions.
- Being inclusive in nature, cooperative games promote a sense of belonging in children. A sense of belonging is highly essential in an academic setting and mental well-being for both children and adults.
- Cooperative games build empathy, unlike competitive ones where it is ‘every man for himself’ and ‘nice guys finish last’. This is because cooperative games are built on a foundation of mutual care and concern and not outperforming the other at all costs.
- The relaxed, friendly environment of cooperative play stimulates problem-solving in children. Together they can pool their ideas and build one on top of the other.
- Cooperative play teaches children to work together towards a common goal and even prepares them for collaborative learning and teaching methodologies.
- Cooperative play gives children a much-needed break from excess competition as most schools are structured competitively. It is seen that excess competition creates anxiety and strains their mental health.
- Cooperative play is important in establishing group identity and promoting group cohesion.
- The inclusiveness of cooperative play games ensures that everybody gets a part, and no one sits idly and wastes time. It teaches resource allocation to children and effective use of effort and time.
- Many cooperative games involve plenty of physical movement and exercise. This promotes health and physical fitness in children.
- Being courteous to other members in a group and taking turns is at the foundation of many cooperative games. These are valuable life skills taught at the right age.
- At the heart of most professions is teamwork and collaborative games teach children all the skills necessary for it.
- Cooperative games prevent many behaviors associated with competitive games such as embarrassment, meanness, and meltdowns.
- Cooperative games are essential for building a positive social climate which is enjoyed by everyone. It works because these games teach children that cooperation and mutual respect are a valued social norm.
How Can Parents Encourage Their Child for Collaborative Play?
Parents can engage their children in different types of cooperative play to inculcate the values that come with it. Here is how to build towards it:
1. Encourage Sharing
The meaning of the word share can seem highly complicated for children as they grow. It can range for giving up their toy momentarily to never seeing that cookie they gave away. Therefore to build the idea of sharing it is essential to indulge in the right sharing games appropriate for the age to integrate the word positively in the child’s mind. The earlier you integrate the meaning of the word sharing in your child’s mind, the better prepared they will be for collaborative games.
2. Taking Turns
Taking turns is at the heart of cooperatives games and babies are capable of back and forth interactions as early as 6–9 months. Use this opportunity to play games such as pat-a-cake and rolling a ball back and forth to teach them to wait for their turn. In the long run, it establishes impulse control as your child can wait for something they desire that very moment.
3. Obeying Rules
Obeying rules that are in place for the greater good is a critical skill that children need to learn as early as possible. It stops them from self-indulgence that can be detrimental to social play. Ideally, the best way to teach them about rules is not to let them win all the time. Although it can be frustrating and even seem unfair, it is a good way to teach them that all play has rules that should be followed.
Teamwork is the hallmark of collaborative play, so your child needs to be taught to help and to cooperate with others in the activity involved especially collaborative pretend play. Since they are not old enough to lend a hand in chores, teach them teamwork by involving them in picking up the toys after a game, or to arrange simple items on a shelf.
5. Cooperative Activities
You can build many essential skills of social play through cooperative games for preschoolers. At family gatherings, have painting projects such as ‘blank canvas’ which involves painting a canvas as a group. Gather preschoolers in your community for events such as planting a vegetable garden.
Some Examples of Social Play
Here are some cooperative play examples you can try out with your child at school or in your community:
The cooperative play child development is a milestone that most children can reach by the age of five when given the right stimulus as they grow. As you teach them behaviors that promote cooperative play, they are able to engage with other children and form meaningful friendships and eventually build essential life skills.