Do you like winning? Of course, you do. We all do. However, when winning means that someone else loses, the stage is set for conflict, anger, and even hate to develop.
We live in a highly competitive society that values winning over all else. Just watch our TV shows, attend a sporting event, or watch a political election. What happens to the losers? Do they disappear or curse or cry? Is that how we want people to feel? Is it how we want our children to feel?
Research by Dr. Arnold P. Goldstein as detailed in The Psychology of Group Aggression has shown that just the physical act of dividing a group of people into two separate groups results in increased conflict and competition between the groups. This is exactly what we do in most of the sports and games activities we play with children and with adults. The more cohesive the separate groups become the more likely they are to display bias, dislike and outward hatred towards the other group.
We have all seen this happen. The crying fit over a game of Monopoly. The vicious comments by parents at Little League games. The fights that break out in the stands at a national sporting event.
Instituting and playing cooperative games does the opposite. When the whole group works together to accomplish a goal, bias and hatred diminish. Well-designed cooperative games are inclusive and allow everyone to have fun and be successful. Studies, such as the one by Bay-Heinz et al, have shown playing cooperative games are effective in reducing aggression.
Although the requirements are simple, there are many games out there masquerading as cooperative games. In choosing a cooperative game, look for the following characteristics:
Here is one of our favorite cooperative games to get you started. Be looking for more games to be posted in the coming weeks.
Goal: To coordinate everyone's movements
Skills: Develops observation skills and the ability to coordinate one's movements with others
Ages: kindergarten to adult
Group Size: At least 4, but the more the better
Materials Needed: 1 big ball of yarn
In this video, a group of Polish kindergartners cooperate to make a spiderweb.