While I support healthy competition and believe that teaching children how compete in a healthy way is important- I just love a cooperative game!
While healthy competition can be good there can also negative aspects - pressure to win, the fear of losing, the increased complexity of social interactions that comes with both winning and losing. These negatives can become more obvious when a child has difficulty following rules, maintaining attention, or dealing with social interactions.
If your goal is to address how to handle competition - then by all means teach those healthy competitive skills - kids need them. However, if you have a child (or are working with a child) and you goal is to simply have them engage or to interact socially in a positive way - then cooperative games are a fun a joyful place to start!
Cooperative games give children who have varying skill sets a chance to shine! Some skills include supporting others, being social, thinking logically, having fun… all without the added stress of competing. Furthermore, cooperative games lets everyone play at the same time and rewards supportive teamwork, which is usually a requirement to complete the game.
Project Adventure offers cooperative game play that usually involves a physical challenge.
There are other similar programs such as Occupational Therapist developed Timber Nook which provide sensory rich nature based experiences for children. Traditional camp games also usually offer collaborative and physical tasks.
Using improvisational techniques is also a great way to elicit cooperative play from your students and children. It also teaches creativity and problem solving.
There are also several cooperative board games on the market that encourage children to work together in a structured way.
Here are my top picks for cooperative board games: