How to Teach Children About Cooperation

How to Teach Children About Cooperation

From business leaders to scientists to sports stars, you would be hard-pressed to find a successful adult who does not constantly exercise the art of cooperation. From the moment we learn this valuable skill as children, it gets put into action in almost every aspect of our lives.

As educators, parents and caregivers, we can help children start to cooperate at an early age. Here’s how.

Modeling Cooperative Behavior for Children

You know that saying, “Children are always watching”? It’s true; children learn character mainly through imitation. They listen, observe and learn cooperation skills by watching the words and actions of their caregivers and educators. When your child sees you working happily with others, they sense the joy you feel and will want to experience that joy, too.

At Primrose schools, Katie® the cat is the Primrose Friend teachers use to help children understand the importance of cooperation. Through stories, songs and role-play, Katie helps nurture teamwork at school.

“Teachers model the many ways that cooperation and teamwork make life better, from making cleanup time go faster to bringing more colors and ideas to a group art project,” says Dr. Maria Shaheen, senior director of education for Primrose Schools®.

Modeling Cooperation for Children at Home

What are some ways that you can teach cooperation at home? The following tips may seem like common sense, but by deliberately modeling these skills in front of your child, you are teaching behaviors that will ultimately help your child succeed — and make you proud when your child imitates you on the playground:

  • Listen carefully to others so you can understand what they are saying.
  • Share or take turns when more than one person wants the same thing.
  • Compromise when you have a serious conflict.
  • Do your part of a shared task and do the very best that you can.
  • Show appreciation to people for what they contribute to a group or team.
  • Encourage others to do their best.
  • Include everyone and make everyone feel needed. Help your child recognize that everybody has something valuable to offer in a group.

Look for Opportunities to Teach Cooperation

In addition to serving as a role model, it’s important to be intentional about teaching cooperation to your child. Every day, there are boundless opportunities to point out what cooperation looks like:

  • Verbalize cooperative actions when they happen in everyday life: “We cooperated on this art project together, and I love how many colors you added!”
  • Point out examples of characters working together in books and other media. Talk about how the characters feel and how much easier it is to accomplish the task when they work together.
  • Plan a family project that includes a task for each person to complete, even the youngest member of the family. You can start a vegetable or flower garden, cook a special meal, clean the house or play a game. Talk about how much fun it was to work together and the important role each person played.
  • Complete household chores as a family. Praise your child for their attempts to help, and refrain from redoing the chore when they’re finished — at least not in their presence. Explain that cooperating on chores allows for more time to have fun as a family.
  • “Catch” your child sharing or helping someone and show your appreciation. Encourage the behavior, but refrain from giving material rewards; they are not necessary. Children should learn the joy of helping others without expecting something in return. This ties to our Primrose value of giving without expectation.

At Primrose Schools®, we believe who children become is as important as what they know. Learn more about how we build character:

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