Emma from 95 Acres of Sky is with us today with a great list of cooperative games… Being that today is cloudy and rainy in these parts, I think we will bring out our favorites!
Whether you are confined to the house because of snow drifts, runny noses, melting tarmac or confusing summer storms (ahem) there really is nothing like sitting around the table with your little ones playing a much loved game.
But, as I discovered several years ago, not all games are made equal. Some, it would seem, are designed specifically to cause family strife and woe (I’m looking at you Monopoly) and leave the participants feeling scratchy and cross with one another rather than happily bonded. When my eldest son was much smaller he did not handle the ‘losing’ part well and was even distressed when he won because it meant that I had lost, it seemed to be a lose-lose situation.
Then I discovered cooperative games. As the name suggests cooperative games involve all the players working together to achieve an end goal, supporting each other, working as a team and hopefully bonding in the process. The games themselves have a built in ‘opposition’ which might be racing against the night or the weather, but the participants themselves must all work cohesively in order to be successful and ‘win’.
These games have been a huge blessing in our house, giving us hours of co-operative fun and underscoring the values I hope to instill in my boys; kindness, cooperation and teamwork. Rather than rejoicing in each other’s failures we can only be successful if we work as a team, just like in real life!
If you are just starting out on your co-operative game adventure, or looking for some new titles to add to the games shelf, here are my top 5 suggestions to get you started.
Count Your Chickens – This is a really fun game by the relatively new company Peaceable Kingdom. This company produce games suitable for pre-readers to more complex games for elementary age and beyond. This first title is a great introduction for little ones who are just learning the game playing process. There is no reading required and the rules are simple enough for anyone to understand. It can be enjoyed by preschoolers and older children alike as it is simple and quick but really fun to play. Your team has to try to get all the little chicks back in the coop before Mama Chicken gets home, but watch out for the fox who takes them back out again! Again no reading is required making it accessible for younger family members but the emphasis on turn taking, counting and following rules are great practice for later on. Ages 3 +
Hoot Owl Hoot – Is another Peaceable Kingdom title suitable for the preschool crowd, a delightful story engages them while simple rules allow multi age participation. Your team works together to get all the little owls home before the sun comes up, a fun adventure that appeals to lots of age ranges. The game emphasizes turn taking, simple counting, color matching and working as a team but takes only 15 minutes to play. Ages 4+
Beautiful Place is one of our family’s absolute favorites. This game is made by Family Past Times who have been making co-operative games since the 1970’s. Not only have they stood the test of time but they can sometimes be found second hand making them a great bargain too. In this game your team works to restore a piece of land to it’s former glory, removing pollution, housing developments and rubbish; but watch out for the pollution clouds! It’s a race against time with this one, adding a bit more excitement and complexity for the older crowd but teaching great lessons about environmental responsibility and caring for nature. Ages 4-7
Princess is another hit game with my two boys, it’s an adventure game with a true fairy tale theme. This game involves much more strategy so is a good one to stretch the mental muscles a little more while still being accessible. Your team must work to rescue the princess, uncovering tools along the way and formulating a plan together. The nice thing about this game is that it is different each time as the story changes and evolves. This is another game from Family Past Times and a great way to support a small, family run business. Ages 4-7
Wildcraft is probably one of the best known, and best loved, co-operative board games out there and with very good reason. Made by LearningHerbs.com this is more than just a game it is a short course on herbalism too! Emphasizing the values of teamwork, co-operation and knowledge sharing, your team must get from Grandma’s house to the blueberry patch fixing assorted injuries and illnesses along the way with the herbs you collect on your journey. This game is specifically designed as an introduction to herbal medicine for children but it is also just great fun. It is more complex and takes longer to play than the others but it is well worth setting aside the time, you’ll learn way more than you realize! Ages 4- Adult
So next time you reach for a fun activity for your family, consider something that emphasizes co-operation rather than opposition, team work rather than blind luck. I promise that games night will be a whole lot less stressful!