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Why Every Preschooler Needs to be Playing Cooperative Games

Gameplay and young children can be so much fun and full of so many great benefits. But if you have some children who struggle with the winning and losing aspect of a game, a cooperative game is just what you need. Don’t get me wrong, because playing cooperative games is important for all of our little learners.

Benefits of Playing Cooperative Games

Let’s take a moment though and define the difference between a cooperative game and a traditional game. In a traditional game one player is the winner and the rest of the players are losers. In cooperative games, the players don’t compete against each other. Instead, they work together with a common goal. They all win together, or they all lose together.

As you could imagine, the benefits of playing cooperative games are a little bit different than playing traditional games, because children are working as a team, they’re having to problem solve in think strategically, and having to use some creativity. I love that it removes that competitive stress of winning and losing, because we’re all in this together.

These cooperative games also promote kindness, sharing, and a big one- communication skills- among the players! They have to be able to talk to each other and start to formulate a plan and work together. It also helps develop some empathy here, because they’re starting to understand what it may feel like when they all win, or they all lose.

If you’re thinking that having students work together as a team is too complex for preschoolers, I urge you to try it out. I think you will be surprised how well your preschoolers do with it. You will be right there and you will be guiding them and helping teach them and coach them along through this game. This is definitely not something that they can play by themselves, at least not until you’ve played it with them several times. But, you will be surprised at how well they can do these big skills like strategic thinking and problem solving and communicating among each other.

Our Favorite Cooperative Games

Peaceable Kingdom

My very favorite maker of cooperative games for preschoolers specifically, is Peaceable Kingdom, they make these amazing games that keep kids interested, help them practice all these amazing social skills and game playing skills. They also add in some academic skills like counting and colors and shapes. So you’re packing so much goodness in one game.

If you have never tried a cooperative game, or maybe you’re looking for some new ideas, I am going to tell you about my favorite cooperative games that we love to play in our classroom. All of these are created by Peaceable Kingdom. This post is not sponsored by them, I just absolutely love what they’re doing by creating cooperative games for preschoolers!

Hoot Owl Hoot

Hoot Owl Hoot is the first game. The players in this game get to help the baby owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up. So basically, they’re working together to get the babies before the sun comes up. They draw these cards and each card either allows them to move closer to another baby owl, or it’s a sunshine and it lets the sun move one space. If the sun gets all the way to the right side of the board, before they have all of their baby owls back in the nest, then the sun wins. But if the team can get all the baby owls back in the nest first then they win.

I feel like I need to take a minute and just warn you a little bit… because the excitement and decibel level of playing these type of games gets incredibly loud. It’s fun to see it’s hilarious but I don’t want you to be caught off guard. They get so engrossed, especially when it comes down to a very close game, that they are squealing and jumping around and making all kinds of noises. So, to say that these games are well loved by kids is probably an understatement. You’ll love it, but just be ready for it!

Count Your Chickens

Another game we love is called Count Your Chickens. The players in this game help Mama Hen, collect all her little chicks and get them back to the coop in time. If everybody can get those chicks to the coop, then they win. This is another one based off the same type of concept as Hoot Owl Hoot. Hint: playing them back to back is helpful because they start to understand the concept of the game and are able to play it a little bit more easily.

Race to the Treasure

Now, drumroll please… the game my preschoolers beg for is called Race to the Treasure. Again, it’s by peaceable kingdom as well. Now it is rated ages five plus, but I don’t want that to scare you away from this game. With some extra support from you, it is totally, totally doable with pre K. And they just adore it.

The structure of the game is different from the others. I think the characters in this game is what makes it so exciting for them. So basically, what they do in this game is there is treasure and there are four keys. Before you start playing, you roll some dice to figure out where on this grid of a game board you put the keys. The ogre in this game has a special path to get to the treasure.

As you play the game, you have a path to try to get all the keys and get to the treasure before the ogre gets there. There are cards involved. You’re pulling a card, you either get a path card to help you get to a key and work down the board. Or you get an ogre card. When you get an ogre card, he gets to go on his path.

The goal is to get all of those keys down to the treasure and to the end spot before the ogre. And this is definitely one that is shrill, scream inducing, so just be ready. It is definitely their favorite. Again, I think it’s because of the ogre. It’s fun to see some of them root for the ogre, because they feel kind of bad for him and think he should get the treasure every now and again!

A couple of other games on my wish list are Pick Me Up Piggy and Snug As A Bug In A Rug. So those are some other options for you as well that I have researched, and think will be fantastic.

When to Play Cooperative Games in the Classroom

When we play these games in the classroom, I generally do not start any sort of formal board game play until I’ve seen that children are pretty self -sufficient in centers. And then we play them during small group. You can definitely use this as skill base time because many of these games are focused on skills. Plus, they add in so many amazing other components. Obviously not all children can play them at once, they’re usually about four players that play. I find that sometimes even the friends that aren’t playing stand and just watch because they’ve just got to have more of these games. And that’s pretty fun to see too!

The Benefits…One More Time

Let’s take a moment to recap on the absolutely amazing benefits of cooperative games.

Teamwork. Creativity. Problem solving. Removing competitive stress. Communication among players. Kindness. Sharing. Developing empathy. Academic skills.

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I love helping preschool teachers be the best they can be, by providing quality resources and sharing fun ideas!

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