January 15, 2020

Playing Together: Encouraging Children to Engage in Cooperative Play

Playing is more than entertainment — it’s how children learn

If you’ve ever observed the ecstatic chaos of a preschool classroom, you know that young children love to play together. Early morning at the preschool can resemble a hive of busy bees full of little faces eager to play with brightly colored toys or costumes.

Although it may look like kids just having a good time, there is important development happening during playtime. Play encourages social, physical, and cognitive growth in children — which is why it is so important for parents and guardians to create an environment where play is welcome and encouraged.

Here’s how parents and educators can foster children’s growth through play, along with a few great ideas for teaching cooperative play in the classroom or at home.

Cooperative play

First, understand the importance of play in a child’s development. Through play, children hone their fine and gross motor skills, learn to problem solve, and develop social skills. The latter is done via cooperative play or playing with other children.

Cooperative play is incredibly important for children, but it can sometimes be a difficult skill to acquire. Some children intuitively work well with others, but most need help developing this set of skills.

Take, for example, a game of tag or building blocks together. Children working on these tasks together will need to harness complex skills like communication, expressing emotions, sharing, and taking turns. Adults can assist children by staying close by during playtime and stepping in to help mediate when a child is having difficulty cooperating.

Working together, children can begin to understand the more nuanced aspects of play that they don’t encounter during solitary play. This is why encouraging cooperative play is so important!

Activities that encourage cooperative play

Stuck on how to get your children or classroom to play together? Here are a few ideas for activities that can help children play together in order to learn the important social, physical, and cognitive skills developed through cooperative play.

  • Construction games: Blocks, Legos, etc. Build something together and talk through the process. Children not only learn how to solve problems and communicate but also work on developing their motor skills.
  • Follow the leader: This simple game helps children learn how to listen and respond. In a classroom setting, rotate the line every few minutes so that each child gets a turn to be the leader. Skills like hopping, jumping, and arm movements are fun and easy to imitate.
  • Collaborative art projects: Everything from painting a mural to creating a collage, this project is an excellent way for children to work together on building a composition, choosing colors, and assigning parts to each other.
  • Drama: Kids love to dress up and create parts in a scripted story. You can host a talent show or create your own stories together.

Create opportunities for cooperative play

In the end, it’s important to understand that you don’t have to facilitate every interaction. In fact, it’s best if you don’t. Allow children room to explore and work together as independently as possible, and be on hand close by to offer assistance if needed.

The best way for adults to encourage cooperative play at home or in the classroom is simply to create opportunities for the children to collaborate with each other. The more they work together, the more they will develop cooperation skills.

Lumiere Children’s Therapy Preschool Program

Our Therapeutic Preschool program is a supportive and inclusive environment for children of all developmental needs. Our small group setting allows for optimal treatment for each child while participating in activities with peers.

Our program is designed to be custom-built, allowing the individual goals of each child to be met within our classroom setting using a multidisciplinary therapeutic approach. Individualized therapy services are embedded daily into the preschool routine and are based on your child’s needs.

We offer year-round rolling admission. Contact us to learn more about how we can assist you and your family today.

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