Cooperative Games for Elementary & Preschool Children

Games help your preschool or school age child develop motor skills, good reflexes, hand-eye coordination, problem solving and language skills. However, competition can cause anxiety and make some kids feel left out. Cooperative games help promote collaborative skills and teach sportsmanship as kids play by helping each other 1. These games focus on fun and teamwork rather than winning.

Cooperative Hoops

The game cooperative hoops is a twist on the game "musical chairs." Instead of having each player compete for themselves and excluding others to win as in "musical chairs," this version makes winning about cooperation. Scatter hula hoops around the play area. Play music and have the kids move around the hoops but not step inside them. While the music is playing, the kids must not stop moving, but when it stops, they must have at least one foot inside a hula hoop and not touch the ground outside the hoop. If any child is not in a hoop when the music stops, they must sit out. On each rotation, remove a ring so that the kids have to share hula hoops. When the game is down to two hoops, the winners are the kids that got the most people inside one hoop. This game teaches kids to cooperate and help each other to win.


This cooperative game also lets even the shyest kids break the ice and get to know one another. Divide the kids into groups of six to 10 people. Pick a theme and have the kids arrange themselves in the correct order to create a continuum. This could be favorite colors arranged in the order of the rainbow, birth month from first to last or dark color shirts to lightest. No team loses in this game, but you can applaud the team that got into the right order the fastest.


The game of Shark is another fun game to teach kids the value of cooperation and teamwork. Outline a large square on the floor. Make teams of five kids each and have the kids link together by standing in a line with hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. When the music is playing, the team leader must guide the others to “swim” in the middle of the square. When it stops, he must get them outside the square to a marked “island” to escape the “shark.” The leader of the team then goes to the end of the line and the person at the front becomes the new leader and must get the team quickly back into the “water” when the music starts again and to safety when it stops. This game makes each child responsible for the safety of others and promotes teamwork as the kids work to stay together during this fast game.

Keep it Up

Sports can be competitive and involve skills that some children are better at than others. Preschool and school age children will enjoy sports games that rely on teamwork rather than skills. Use a balloon or a large, light ball to play “Keep it Up.” In this game, divide the kids into two teams across a net or line. As in volleyball, they must pass the balloon or ball back and forth without letting it touch the ground. However, the rule is that a different team member must hit the ball or balloon to the opposite team each time. Other team members can help their team players by passing to them.