TREVOR "The Games Man"


More Appropriate Play

 by TREVOR "The Games Man"

Children need to play.

Play is their primary learning process for the first five or six years of life. Play is serious business for children. Doll play is actually practicing and experimenting with parenting. Blocks are an opportunity to learn how things go together --- and come apart! Art is a means to self-expression. Imaginary play is integral to assimilating ideas and feelings.

Since most of what kids do is role play adult activities, it is very important that we be good role models. More than that, though, we can gently guide the children towards play that will develop positive relationships, encourage togetherness and sharing, and in a very real way help bring peace on Earth.

Of course, we're talking about Cooperative Play.

Children are naturally cooperative (competition is a learned behavior). From infancy, children want to play together, want to share equally, want to include everyone, and want to be able to enjoy the process. And that's what Cooperative Play is all about.

Cooperative Play means all the players working together towards a common goal. When our day care children got into an aggressive mood and foam tubes become swords for killing, that energy was easily diverted into being firefighters, the tubes instantly transforming into gushing water hoses, and the children all dousing the burning building together. When it comes right down to it, which would you prefer your children do? Which has less chance of ending with one or more unhappy children? And which do you think will contribute more to world peace?

The above is an example of re-directing play initiated by the children. You should also choose very carefully when selecting games to initiate yourself. Think carefully and see if they meet the following criteria:

1. Is there a common goal that everyone reaches?
2. Is everyone included all the time?
3. Is it emotionally, mentally, and physically safe?
4. Is it interesting?
5. Is it FUN?

If a game doesn't fit all five criteria, you don't necessarily have to switch games: changing the game is an option, too. A simple game of Tag usually ends with the slowest runner stuck being It and unhappily unable to catch anyone. Simply have everyone run holding hands in pairs, call it Buddy Tag, and we've just fixed the game. And besides, it's actually a lot more FUN that way!

There are several excellent resources full of cooperative ideas and suggestions, so enough with the words. Let's see some action. Start playing more cooperative games. Locate some of these books for your own use, read through some of the games, and try those that appeal to you as more appropriate play. 

 This article was originally written for Child Care Resources Quarterly.




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