Cooperative Play

Human beings have persevered on this planet by figuring out how to work together.  We gather information, work hard, learn by trial and error, and enlist the help of others.  That’s how it works.  And, that’s just what is happening in my classroom.  I’m watching the same evolution through the children as they play together.  For children, play is their work, and it is hard work.

Play begins independently, then includes others.  For quite a while play is simple, but it becomes complicated when children are in school and surrounded by so many different children, and (gulp!) have to work together.  Bottom line; this is the heart and soul of developing life skills.

Here is what I said today to the families in my class:

Over the past month teachers have been watching your children play together. The operative word is ‘together’, because we are witnessing a huge shift from playing with classmates to working with classmates. This can only happen when children feel connected, like a family. Recently we have stepped back and watched our family in action.

On the playground, children figured out how to use sandbox shovels, one in each hand, as big leaf scoopers. Some children wanted to scoop the leaves into the windows of the play houses on the playground, while other children wanted to collect the scooped leaves inside the house. Other children wanted to use the pretend lawnmower to disperse of the leaves in the house, therefore starting the leaf cycle over again. This was hard work. This was cooperative work.

We watched children riding in the big wagon. Two children were inside and two were outside. Not only did they figure out how to take turns, they had to problem-solve what to do if the wagon went off the path and into the bark mulch. It took more children to move that wagon, and we watched as children enlisted the help of their classmates, negotiated, and brainstormed. Together, they figured this out.

Your children are pushing their friends on the swings. A month ago, children wanted teachers to do this.

In the classroom children created a doctor’s office for ‘Gloria’ on the housekeeping table. They used the grocery store items to nurture her, and they made sure she had her blankie.

Our grocery store has opened more complex opportunities for cooperative play. We have three carts, two cash registers with money, four clipboards and pencils, and plenty of real grocery boxes and containers. Can half the class play grocery store together? You bet!

Your children love games, particularly ‘Cariboo’, and our handmade version of Memory. They ask to play every day, and this involves taking turns, following the rules of the game, and cooperative play.

We are a family, indeed!

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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One Response to Cooperative Play

  1. Marie Forst says:

    What a great description, Jennie. When you are inside, do you limit the numbers of children allowed in each center area? Your description causes me to ponder my current routine of four per area at a time. Hmmmm…..

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