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~ Cooperation tops Competition ~

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?

Cooperation beats Competition Teach Peace Now

We Need Cooperative Games

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.

What Makes a Great Cooperative Game?

Cooperative Games Teach Peace Now

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:

  • It must involve everyone working toward the same end goal.
  • It does not divide the group into teams or pairs or groups.
  • There are no individual or team winners or leaders.
  • There is no score.
  • It does not single out individuals to perform in front of the whole group.
  • Individuals cannot cause the group the “lose.” For example, by dropping a ball or moving in the wrong way.
  • There are many ways to “win.” The core of a true cooperative game is the pleasure of playing with others. In a great cooperative game, accomplishing the end goal is nice but not essential to that enjoyment. A game might end because it is dinner time or because everyone is lying on the floor laughing their hearts out.

Here is one of our favorite cooperative games to get you started. Be looking for more games to be posted in the coming weeks.

Yarn for cooperative game SpiderwebSpiderweb

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


  1. Stand or sit in a circle
  2. Person holding the yarn ball holds on tight to the loose end, unwraps enough to reach another participant, and then either tosses it to that member of the group or for young children, walks across and hands the ball to another child.
  3. That person, holding tight to the length, then unwraps a bit more, and tosses it to another person.
  4. Continue until every person has caught the ball and is holding a section of yarn.
  5.  The last person holds on to the ball.
  6. When ready, everyone should raise the hand holding the yarn. Try to do it without loosing any ends.  If you do, laugh and start again. Look up. The Spiderweb is ready.
  7. Now comes the fun.  If there is enough space, you can try moving around without letting go. You can have a stuffed spider or drawing of a spider to go capture. You can play music or sing a song and move the web up and down in rhythm. Advanced groups can try to pass the piece they are holding onto to the next person and make the web spin (start very slowly).
  8. Once the group can do this part, try going backwards to undo the spiderweb. This requires remembering the order the web was created in and reversing it while winding up the ball.

In this video, a group of Polish kindergartners cooperate to make a spiderweb.


Have you ever played this game?

We welcome your thoughts and comments.

Teach Peace Now
Teach Peace Now
We offer books, activities, lesson plans, and ideas that teachers, parents, and students can use to promote values, attitudes and behaviors which encourage non-violent resolution of conflict, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding and tolerance.

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