Each center in the classroom was occupied and there were children sitting at tables working on various activities.
“Five-minutes to clean-up!” I told each child in my prekindergarten class.
Over the several days leading up to this moment, we focused on working together to clean up the classroom. Today was a test… Could we work together to get the classroom cleaned before the timer rang? The moment of truth was finally here – it was clean up time!
With a gentle reminder about our goal to beat the timer, I told the children it was time to get started. Each child not only cleaned up his or her toys, but looked under the tables for fallen items, straightened shelves and books, wiped off tables, and swept the floor. The entire room was cleaned, and children were sitting on the carpet ready for our circle time discussion just before the timer rang!
I was so proud of them – they worked together, they cooperated, and they reached the goal!
Whether playing a game, cleaning a classroom, or working to complete a given task, cooperation is a skill necessary for children to learn.
Caregivers can promote cooperation by helping children practice skills like sharing, taking turns, and working together. Additionally,
1.) Model cooperation. Demonstrate how to work together with others to reach a common purpose. Siblings can work together with one another or with a parent to set the table for dinner. Sharing age-appropriate responsibilities enables children to learn how to work together to reach the goal.
2.) Play games to encourage teamwork. This does not necessarily mean you should put your young child on a sports team. Still, expecting teamwork in the home can instill cooperation. Activities like playing games together in teams, cleaning up together to beat a timer, or simply building puzzles together enables children to learn how to work together.
3.) Take time to teach them how to problem-solve. Part of cooperation is learning how to overcome challenges together. If a disagreement arises, help children learn how to identify a problem, think about different ways to solve that problem, and then encourage them to try out solutions. This process will take patience and practice, but the benefits of social problem solving extend into adulthood.
4.) Allow for choices. Recognizing there are multiple ways to reach a goal, caregivers can provide children with the choice about how they will work together. Sometimes it means we take on different roles in the work or approach the task from a different angle – listening to one another’s ideas and incorporating those ideas is a part of cooperation.
5.) Use specific praise. When you observe children cooperating, praise them for working together. Try to be as specific as possible as you explain how your child demonstrated cooperation, “You and your sister were cooperating nicely when you worked together to complete the puzzle.”
Being able to work together with others to reach a goal or overcome a challenge will ensure future success. By participating in tasks cooperatively from an early age, children will gain a better understanding of the meaning and value of cooperation.