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 talk about cooperative play, its importance, and various games that can encourage it.

What Is Cooperative Play?

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, cooperative 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 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 he/she is ready for starting cooperative 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

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

2. Supports cooperation and shared goals

Collaboration helps children in social and academic interactions. Games that require increased cooperation provide scope for the development of social skills. Cooperative 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 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 organize their play.

4. Improves trust and conflict resolution

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

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

7. Supports problem-solving skill development

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.

Cooperative Play Ideas And Activities

Some of the common 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

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.

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.

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.


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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Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo did MBA from Osmania University and holds a certificate in Developmental Psychology from The University of Queensland. The zoologist-botanist turned writer-editor has over 8 years of experience in content writing, content marketing, and copywriting. He has also done an MBA in marketing and human resources and worked in the domains of market research and e-commerce. Rohit writes topics... more

Dr. Holly Schiff

Dr. Holly Schiff did her Doctorate of Psychology in School and Community Psychology from Hofstra University and graduated from Fordham University. She also holds a Master of Arts in Psychology in Education degree from Columbia University, a Master of Science in School-Community Psychology, and an Advanced Certificate in School-Community Psychology from Hofstra University. Dr. Schiff was accepted as a member... more