Cooperation and sharing are basic life skills that enable us to make friends, work successfully in groups and get along well with others. Babies are not born knowing how to cooperate or share. This ability is learned through interactions and experiences with parents and other significant care givers. Around age three, children begin to practice real cooperation when their play requires sharing and taking turns.
Teaching children this age taught me that learning how to cooperate and share is a process. It takes time and interactions with other children to learn that sharing can be fun. All I had to do was spend a few moments listening to my children as they played to understand where they were in the process. When I resisted the urge to interfere in their “negotiations,” I found out the most. We did a lot of role playing as a class to work through issues so we could learn to “make” friends and “get along” with them.
Sharing is necessary if we want working and playing with others to be pleasurable. It builds a foundation for positive character development and is a common thread that runs through caring, cooperation, generosity and citizenship.
Here are a few suggestions you might want to try at home that require cooperation AND are fun.
Model Cooperative Behavior: You are your child’s first teacher, and your behavior greatly influences the way your child acts and feels. Modeling cooperative behavior and helping your child see the benefit to lending a helping hand can turn a chore into an opportunity for fun. For example, you could say “If we work together to clean up the kitchen after dinner, we’ll all be able to listen to the new book you borrowed from the library.”
Family Projects: Plan a family project that includes a task for each family member, such as starting a vegetable or flower garden, mapping out the family vacation or playing a game. Help them see the fun in working together to accomplish a goal.
Cooperation Soup: Cooking is a perfect time to learn about cooperation because children can actively help by gathering ingredients, measuring, mixing and then serving and eating. Read the story of Stone Soup and discuss how the soldiers tricked everyone in the village into contributing to a wonderful pot of soup that everyone could enjoy.
Book Club: Introduce the concept of cooperation by reading books about characters who share, such as The Little Red Hen. Discuss what happens at the end of the story. Ask your child to tell you how they would respond if someone asked them to cooperate on a project.
Making Music: The way children respond to music is magical. Listen to a short piece of music and discuss how the members of the chorus, band or orchestra worked together to make a beautiful sound. It’s easy to gather a simple set of rhythm instruments that children can use to keep time with the music or just sing along with a song on a CD. If you record their production, they will love hearing it over and over knowing that they accomplished it together.