Cooperative Games

Games that Support Empathy and Team Work

We learned early-on in our parenting career that our oldest child was not wired for competition. Thoughts of sitting around the camp fire playing Monopoly or Gin Rummy quickly withered as we watched our son melt-down in despair when we attempted any type of competitive game.

He is not a perfectionist, nor is he afraid to try and excel at something difficult. Yet for some reason, when asked to pit his skills against the person next to him, my eldest son becomes physically anxious and panics.

As we solidified our parenting philosophy, we began to realize that we didn’t necessarily want our kids to be competitive. Self-motivated, passionate and focused, yes…but not at the expense of their neighbor. We didn’t want to teach our children to find joy in someone else’s loss.

When kids at the playground asked our kids to play tag, I quickly offered to play “challenge” instead where I shouted out a physical challenge for all the kids to accomplish, where no child “won” or “lost” – each child simply worked as hard as they could to jump on one foot or run around the oak tree or execute five jumping jacks. The kids loved it and my children were able to socialize, while we stayed true to our family values. Yay!

We avoided playing board games as I assumed they were all competitive in nature. I was wrong!

Recently an uber-cool homeschool mama, Jessica A.. brought a cooperative game to our homeschool co-op. Huh! Who knew? I wasn’t clever enough to think that other families might have the same approach to competition and that someone was actually mass producing cooperative games. Cool!

The game Jessica introduced to us is Community and my son played it for over an hour at co-op that day – a major accomplishment for a kid who shies away from games. Of course, we purchased Community and both my four year old and six year old play it regularly.   

The idea is to create a city, or community, with the octagonal game tiles, by connecting each location tile (home, library, museum) with a road tile as efficiently as possible. The road tiles must be oriented to match up with the location tiles, making it a fun puzzle that is unique every time you play.

I recently did some research into cooperative games and realized that the skills learned teach communication, empathy, and conflict resolution – exactly the type of skills our family prioritizes in our children’s education and development. Cooperative games require the skills of everyone in the group and give kids an opportunity to work together toward a common goal. Nice!

If you’re curious about cooperative games there is a whole slew of them on Amazon. Thus far, Community is our favorite. You can also try before you buy at  your local gaming store – I know our local game store, Gamesville Tabletop, has plenty to choose from.

Happy cooperative gaming!

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