Cooperative Play (A Comprehensive Guide)


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Page last updated: 20/11/2022

Cooperative Play

 In 1932 Mildred Parten first devised the concept of cooperative play which is also known as the highest social play for young children because in this play both members that want to play make an effort to achieve their goal.

Parten analyzed the behavior of school children during their playtime between the ages of 2-5 years old.

This helps them to develop an assessment of social participation and also mention 6 domains that measure social behaviors such as vacant behavior, bystander behavior, and private free play, and corresponding activity, associative and obliging play.

Cooperative play takes place in a repeated phase because child behavior serves as the provocation for their playing that’s why both partners are aware of others’ actions, feelings, and ideas. In this article we will discuss Cooperative play. 

What is Cooperative Play?

Cooperative play often refers to the planned play in which both players equally share the determinations and duties to achieve their goal.

It works on the phenomena of giving and takes which indicate that both players exchange their frame of mind, emotional states, and concept to achieve a common purpose.

The activities used in cooperative play are considered essential for the better growth and development of the child such as the activity of building something and performing on the stage and acting as an actor not only enhance their confidence but also motivate the children to exchange their concepts while working together and reach the goal they consider best.

The cooperative play also ensures the freedom in learning that helps the children to learn independently without any pressure which is also considered the most crucial part of children’s development.

There is no doubt that playing is the only way that helps the children in the early stage of development to learn different things by associating the two most crucial elements such as entertainment and learning together which helps them to focus and maintain attention in learning new things.

Cooperative play allows children to grow in different domains of life such as socially, mentally, physically, and emotionally that make them stronger in their later life.

Cooperative play helps the children to select their role or how they want to see themselves such as roles like followers or leaders in the class.

At the same time it also provides a chance to look and understand other roles also experience them by applying it during the playtime.

Cooperative Play (A Comprehensive Guide)

Examples of cooperative play

Below are some of the best examples of cooperative play for children that help them to develop independently and enhance their mental ability.

  • Treasure Hunt (hide the treasure and ask them to find it)
  • Puzzles (solve the mystery of words and blocks)
  • Building Dens (build something by using different play tools)
  • Relay Races (communication competition)
  • Team Games (play as a team to achieve a common goal)
  • Making Up a Dance (enjoy a dance)
  • Board Games (use different board games)

All of the above activities encourage children to play together in an independent and safe environment to achieve a common goal.

6 Stages of Play

In cooperative play, children at young age come across with six different stages of social play that are connected with the support of other team members.

All of these stages are unique in their own way which not only help the children to develop their skills but also encourage them to join various social activities without any hesitation and difficulty.

There are six different stages in which the child passes through play (order of the stages may fluctuate) are described below

  • Unoccupied Play – is also symbolized as vacant play because at this stage the child only discovers his environment without following any rules and procedure of the play; it is just the random search of the environment. At this stage, a child’s personal contact with various objects (toys) and people (family members and others) that come across their environment can enhance the learning.
  • Onlooker Play – the best way to learn social interaction is to first observe others and gain knowledge of how they interact with each other. At the bystander stage of play the child does not actually play but serves the role of observer while other children play in front of him with their friends and toys.
  • Solitary Play – this stage is symbolized as the private play because in this stage children are allowed to play with their toys and sit with other children but are not allowed to interact with them. In reality, they play on their own and also feel their surroundings as safe.
  • Parallel play: In the parallel play, children are also provided with the same toys and not allowed to interact. This is helpful to create a feeling of similar play. It is similar to private play too.
  • Associative Play –  at this stage children are familiarized with social interaction through gradually introducing it such as, children are allowed to play together in a ground such as painting a picture and work as a team, building a long tower together and messing the room by using their personal stuff.
  • Cooperative play – this is the last stage of social play. At this stage, children play together to achieve a common purpose such as creating a new thing together. Cooperative play can be considered in the term of a group art project in which some everyone has a duty and responsibility to fulfill such as one may gather the necessary things for a play, the other one will provide a design and the remaining children will work on the instruction to complete their project.

These stages help the children for the better development in the early stage of life and help them to achieve social skills. 

Benefits of Cooperative Play

Cooperative play has many benefits especially for those that enjoy it and fully involve themselves in the role they are playing at different stages. Some benefits of cooperative play are described below.

  • Development in various domains of life such as physical, social, intellectual and emotional skills
  • Enhance the ability to listen and speaking which is necessary for better communication
  • Develop the capacity to work as a Team rather independent
  • Enhance the Leadership qualities
  • Enhance the skills of exchanging ideas and responsibilities with others
  • Enhance Problem-solving ability
  • Work as a team to grasp a mutual objective
  • Gives a feeling of  “winners” for everyone

Cooperative play requires some tasks that can be achieved by working together children trying to win independently they work together to solve a problem.

This indicates the feeling of trying to win rather promoting the differences among children as some have the extra abilities and others are the losers.

Through cooperative play children learn that winning and losing are not the important thing.

The thing which matters a lot is to work together and enjoy the social circle.

Playing Cooperatively in Early Years

Cooperative skills not only play an important role in the later years of life but it is considered as the crucial aspect for the early stages of life too.

Early-stage of life is important because at that stage a child’s mind is clear and their belief system is based on the things they learn and observe.

Cooperative play helps them to fill their mind with learning the skills and knowing the importance of the social environment of working as a team rather than working isolated.

Teaching and learning simple activities simply absorb in the children’s mind without any difficulty.

Cooperative play also teaches some crucial life concepts such as sharing your things, following the rules and showing patience that help them in their later life too.

Communication Skills on the Playground

 At the early stage of life children lack the basic skill of cooperation while playing as a team because this skill of communication is usually built on the base of previous experiences and they are very young.

At this time cooperative play helps the children to develop the basic skill of cooperation in the ground by interacting with their fellows.

The cooperative play also teaches the children how they can reach and take help from people while they are facing difficulties in life and also how they can solve their personal disputes while maintaining respect for others.

Cooperative play chooses those situations while playing that can enhance their knowledge and understanding for better communication in future life.

There is no doubt that other plays also enhance the basic skill of communication in children but cooperative play teaches different skills by placing them in those situations that are relatable to real-life scenarios which increase the learning ability.

In cooperative play children consider that these situations are just normal and they have to tackle the situation to win but actually the situations are reality-based and help them in their life to face the difficulties without being worried.

Of course, other activities may offer this benefit of developing communication, but cooperative activities put the pupils in situations which are applicable to everyday life and therefore the learning a lot quicker.

They can relate to the situations given to them through this means compared to just normal games.


Cooperative Play Activities

The activities used in the cooperative play may be perceived as challenging for those who are not aware what they are going to do in the play.

But below are some activities that any teacher can use to enhance the ability of the children that help them to deal effectively in life.

The first thing you can start with is the activity of building blocks.

Arrange a task for the class to make a building by using the blocks and share the responsibilities of the members in the group as half of them work as a supplier for the block and the remaining ones act as the builder to construct the building.

This activity can help the children to work with each other with cooperation so that the task can be completed on time and without facing any difficulties.

The second way to involve the children in a group activity is pretending to play.

In this play every child has a specific role that is based on their imagination skills, social and rational thinking.

Assign the children the role and allow them to run the shop on their own by using their skills but the roles must be interconnected with others so that the social interaction between the children becomes possible.

Cooperative play is crucial to enhance social skills and make them independent.

Also, the engagement of every participant is important.

FAQ about Cooperative Play

What age is cooperative play?

Children that achieve various skills through the initial stage of the cooperative play reach at the last stage at the age of 4-5 years old.

It became more useful and visible when children interact with others for play.

Why is cooperative play important?

Cooperative play enhances communication skills and knowledge about the world.

Also teach them basic social rules such as patience, cooperation, and dealing with personal conflicts. 

What are the 5 stages of play?

There are 5 stages of play

– vacant play

– bystander play

– corresponding activity,

– Obliging play.

– Social play


Cooperative Play by Jordan Luther (2011)

Cooperative Play Ideas for Kids