This month, we focused on teaching children teamwork and cooperation. Being able to work well with others is an integral part to success in adulthood. Whether it’s being a successful team member of a professional organization or being an important contributor to a happy family, we all need to know how to work in a way that fosters communication, respect, and cooperation.
In her article “Five Simple Activities that promote teamwork,” Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed discusses the 3 Cs of teamwork: communication, collaboration, and cooperation.
While teamwork and cooperation may sometimes be difficult to put words to, they are also two of the most natural values for our children to learn as long as we expose them to activities in which they can practice these important skills.
Don’t make the mistake of defaulting to sports teams with preschool-age children
While older children have the capability to both learn a new sport and figure out how to apply those skills in a conducive team environment, preschool-age children are less likely to master teamwork skills their first time on the field. If your child is still young enough that their team mostly chases the ball around in a big clump instead of passing the ball down the field to each other, sports might not be the most beneficial team-learning environment. (However there are still important skills your preschool children may learn as part of a sports team, including fitness, learning to listen to a coach, hard work and determination, and learning a new skill).
Look for places where children can work together to achieve a common goal
Situations where children use skill they’ve already mastered to work together with others are optimal for teaching children teamwork and cooperation. For instance, building a block tower with other children, playing ring-around-the-rosies, playing with a parachute, or pretend play with dolls are all great ways children can use skills they already understand to work well with other children.
Talk about teamwork and cooperation
A lot of teamwork comes from making sure your child has children his or her age with whom to socialize and work together. But additional value can also be derived from conversations with your child. Give accolades when you see your child, a sibling, or a friend promoting cooperating well or working well as a team. Explain how their action contributed to the overall success of the team.
Make sure your family promotes unity and cooperation
A family household is one of the first collaborative environments your child will ever experience. Help teach teamwork to your child by making sure they get to be a part of the success of the household. Giving your child household chores (such as helping with the dishes, helping sweep the floor, cleaning up toys, or feeding the dog) and giving them opportunities to help family members (helping their little sister pick out an outfit, helping carry in groceries, etc.) lets them practice contributing to the most important team in their lives.
Don’t forget that the most important way your child learns is by following your example. Find ways to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate with your child, friends, and family so your child can see these important skills in action.