There's a big difference between cooperative games and traditional competitive games. Games that ask children to compete can often leave children with feelings of failure and rejection. Even a simple game of Musical Chairs or Simon Says can be upsetting to the children who are put "out" of the game.
As you well know, young children are just learning how to cooperate and are not really ready to compete. Cooperative games eliminate the fear of failure while building listening, sharing, and cooperation. In these games everyone is a winner because they work together as a group to create the activity.
In addition, cooperative games don't have to take up too much of your group time. In fact, a cooperative "action game break" can be just the thing to get children's attention back and prepare them to continue your group time activity.
Here are some simple cooperative games to enjoy:
The Mixed Up Animal Game
Watch the silliness get children moving with this "mixed up" activity!
• Paste pictures (from magazines or online) of animals on cardboard. Cut the pictures in half horizontally. The object of the game is to create a new animal by combining different halves!
• Shuffle the cards and pass one out to each child. Play some movement music and invite children to move around the room.
• When the music stops ask children to find a friend with a different animal card and combine them to make silly creatures. What is the name of your creature? How does it move?
• Put on the music again and have children move like their new creature. Start and stop the music several times so children can select new cards and get to try moving as a variety of mixed up creatures!
A Clothing Relay
Children have to work together to listen and follow directions to make this lively game work!
• Set up two piles of old clothes and hats at one end of the room or in an open area of your outdoor play space.
• Have children form two lines about six to ten feet away from the piles.
• Invite children to run to a pile and put on one piece of clothing. Then run back and tag the next person in line. This person then runs down to the pile and puts on something else.
• This continues until all children are dressed in funny outfits and are ready to run again. In the second round, children run back to where the pile was and take off the costume.
• When they are finished they can sit down at the end by the pile and cheer for the others!
• Just for fun, periodically throughout the game stop the action by calling "Freezer Ask children to take a funny stance like a sculpture and look at each other. When the giggling has subsided, call out "Thaw!" and tell children to go back to the relay game.
Walk the Tightrope!
Try a tightrope movement game that calms children while channeling their extra physical energy. (Children will have to move quietly and carefully together when moving on a tightrope because they don't want to fall off!)
• Create a pretend tightrope across the room or from one specific place to another. You can draw an imaginary line or use tape to create an actual one on the floor.
• Invite children to imagine that it's stretched across a circus big top and they have to be very careful not to fall off as P they tiptoe across it. > Tightrope walkers often have partners. Ask children to find a partner and walk the rope together. How many different ways can you move together without falling off?