Cooperative Games: One for All and All for One

By Dana Villamagna, Toca Magazine Writer

Competition can be fun, but win-or-lose play isn’t always a good idea, especially among siblings. In our family, the four- and eight-year age spans between three kids have made many competitive games unfair and un-fun. This problem motivated us to find ways to play competitive games cooperatively instead. We discovered that almost any game can be transformed into a “one for all, and all for one” play experience.

Categories: Active Play, Physical Toys and Games

Target age: 3 and up

Skill level: Beginner

Materials: Stuff you probably have at home

Prep time: 1 to 30 minutes

What You’ll Need

  • maze- and tower-building materials
  • jigsaw and crossword puzzles
  • board games labeled as “cooperative” games, or traditional games, adapted
  • sports equipment

The Activity

  • Board, card and dice games

Look specifically for games labeled “cooperative”; they usually involve tasks or mysteries that must be completed and solved individually and collectively to benefit everyone playing as one team. For traditional card or dice games that include a winning point total, combine each player’s points after each round until you reach an agreed-upon point level as a group. Everyone’s working for the same total.

  • Marble mazes, card towers or wooden block towers (such as Jenga blocks), and domino lines

Instead of building individual mazes, towers or lines to see whose is the fastest, longest or highest, everyone builds one together. These games are ideal for cooperative play because everyone works together for one end result. If the maze fails, if the tower falls or if the domino line doesn’t fall according to plan, everyone “loses,” and then tries again until everyone wins!

  • Jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are perfect for busy families: Everyone can work at their own pace for as long as it takes to complete the puzzle. During some holiday breaks, I’ve spread hundreds of pieces of large puzzle on a table and everyone in the house worked on the puzzle as they had time until we completed it.

  • Sports

For sports like tennis, badminton, frisbee or volleyball, count how many times you and the other player or players can keep the ball or birdie in the air without it touching the ground. Reverse the game of Horse in basketball to spell the word with the shots you all make. For a real change of pace, don’t count or time anything. Just use a ball for simple, fun free-play just like babies and toddlers do. Kicking a soccer ball around the backyard with my son with no goal at all was one of the most fun outdoor activities we did together when he was a toddler.

Think outside the box: What else can you play cooperatively with a ball? One summer, my kids and their cousins rolled a special ice cream-making ball back and forth to each other dozens of times until the cream inside the ball hardened into ice cream that they all ate. Talk about the ultimate result of fun cooperative play!


Share a photo and win!

Share a photo of your family doing this activity in the comments on our Facebook post or on Twitter with #31DaysofPlay! Every Friday we’ll choose one photo from the week to win a Toca Boca Play Kit full of swag, stickers, and a $15 iTunes Gift Card.

About the Author

Dana Villamagna, Toca Magazine Writer

Dana is a freelance writer, Montessori teacher, expert evaluator of digital media for kids and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Eating for Kids.” She’s mom to two teenage daughters and a 10-year-old son.