What Is Cooperative Play? Benefits, Examples And Activities

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Cooperative Play: Setting the Cornerstone to Your Child’s Behavioral and Cognitive Development Mildred Parten Newhall, an American sociologist, has developed six different types of plays for children between ages two and five. One of these six types of play is cooperative play. Unoccupied, solitary, onlooker, parallel, and associative play are the other five types. These six types explain how children change their playing style based on their social development. Each level of the play depicts cognitive and social development in children and helps parents understand how well their children are growing. Read this post as we discuss cooperative play definition, its importance, and various games that can encourage it.

In This Article

What Is Cooperative Play?

The cooperative play definition states that cooperative play occurs when children play with other children. It requires division of efforts among them to achieve a common group goal or specific tasks. While competitive games involve winners and losers, joint or unified games involve problem-solving methods where everyone wins. Through this stage of play, children learn problem-solving, self-advocacy, decision-making skills, teamwork, sharing, and conflict resolution knowledge.

When Does Cooperative Play Begin?

Cooperative play for kids

Image: IStock

Cooperative play typically begins when children are aged between 4 and 5 (1). However, the child’s innate abilities, such as the exchange of ideas and role acceptance, are crucial for determining whether they are ready for starting concerted play. They also need to understand the meaning of respect towards property rights, and the need to uphold and abide by rules.

For instance, a four-year-old child may not have sufficiently developed the ability to compromise with their toys. But at five years, sharing may increase their fun and happiness.

Why is Cooperative Play Important?

Cooperative play activities may be essential for the following reasons (2).

1. Reduces aggressive behavior and tendencies

Participation in various collaborative games can make children perceive and accept the differences brought out by increased social interactions. Through collective play, children tend to show positive behaviors, such as politeness and mutual respect, thereby helping control aggressive behavior.

2. Supports cooperation and shared goals

Allows children to work together

Image: IStock

Collaboration helps children in social and academic interactions. Games that require increased cooperation provide scope for the development of social skills. Interactive play allows children to observe different roles in the team and a new point of view. Some examples include agreement on the rules of games, completing structures by adding bits and pieces and linking different aspects to complete shared tasks. This amicable play allows children to work together towards a common goal instead of in opposition to one another or in the pursuit of winning.

3. Enhances communication and use of language

These skills aid in self-expression, enabling them to convey messages or decode information from their surroundings, thereby allowing them to perceive various situations. They also help improve listening skills and the ability to respect different perspectives as they have to agree on rules and keep them organized in their play.

4. Improves trust and conflict resolution

Makes them gain dependence

Image: IStock

As a child sees their team members perform to their best effort, they build trust in each other. It makes them gain dependence on others by recognizing each other’s strengths. As trust builds, they learn to resolve their conflicts and work as a team.

5. Teaches self-regulation

Cooperative play requires children to regulate their emotions. Some of the critical aspects of such regulation include absorption of disappointment during a loss, restriction on immediate gratification, and proceeding in the game as a team.

6. Instills a sense of belonging

Combined play is inclusive, ensuring every child is involved. This instills a sense of belonging among participating players.

7. Supports problem-solving skill development

Cooperative play imbibes problem-solving skills

Image: IStock

Children need to discuss and debate on the rules of the game, develop strategies to win the game, and overcome the hurdles that come their way. This imbibes problem-solving skills in them.

protip_icon Point to consider
Cooperative play that is non-competitive and voluntarily selected by the children is crucial for the social development of a sense of equality, togetherness, and concern for others.

Cooperative Play Ideas And Activities

Some of the common friendly cooperative play ideas and activities are:

  • Board games
  • Fit-me-to-know puzzles
  • Treasure hunt
  • Den building
  • Team sports and games
  • Storytelling
  • Sandcastle building
  • Building blocks and towers
  • Lego
protip_icon Quick tip
Playing with the parachute is an example of a cooperative activity for kids. Have the children stand around the perimeter and hold the parachute with both hands. Then, place a plastic ball in the center, have them move back to open the parachute, launch the ball upward, catch it, and then relaunch it.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I support my child in cooperative play?

You can support your child’s cooperative play in the following ways:

  • Involving them while doing chores
  • Engaging them in back-and-forth interactions
  • Being a model of cooperativeness
  • Including cooperative games in their daily routine

2. How does cooperative play promote language development?

Enhancing language skills is considered one of the benefits of cooperative play as with the help of this method, children can converse with their peers and other people, which allows them to practice their vocabulary and refine their pronunciation and speaking skills by listening to others.

3. Are there any safety considerations parents should keep in mind when encouraging cooperative play?

Parents should ensure the environment where children engage in cooperative play is well-organized, comfortable, and personable. They should also create regulations to promote positive behaviors, such as open communication. This will facilitate inclusivity, which is essential for development.

Cooperative play is when children play together with shared goals. They may agree on rules and organize their game. Cooperative play typically begins when children are aged between four and five. However, the ability to play cooperatively depends on the child’s ability to learn and exchange ideas and assign and accept roles in their game. It helps in physical and personal development and makes them familiar with concepts such as cooperation, communication, empathy, trust, and conflict resolution. Children learn through play, and as they play cooperatively with others, they will keep learning essential life skills as well.

Infographic: Ways To Encourage Cooperative Play In Children

Cooperative play has many advantages for children, including enhancing their social and communication skills. Whether your child does not wish to move away from the screen or is used to staying home after the pandemic, follow this infographic’s tips to encourage children to engage in cooperative play to reap its benefits.

how to engage your child in cooperative play (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Cooperative play is a stage that begins during middle childhood.
  • It teaches children to learn about division of efforts and self-regulation.
  •  Scavenger hunt and Minefield are a few cooperative games that enhance a child’s social skills.

Cooperative play is an important part of childhood development. This enlightening video by Felicia Wright throws light on the importance of cooperative play for children. Keep watching to learn more!


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Elizabeth Whitman; The Impact of Social Play on Young Children; Murray State University
2. Dadan Suryana; Effect of cooperative play on social emotional skills of children ages 5-6 years; Universitas Negeri Padang
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