I first learned about cooperative board games a few years back, and I was a little slow on the uptick. Until recent years, I have always been a pretty competitive person. A game without a clear winner? What’s the point in that?!
Now that I have children and routinely face the reality of rabid sibling strife, I totally see the point.
In a cooperative board game, players work together in order to achieve a goal, either winning or losing as a group. As the name suggests, cooperative games stress cooperation over competition. Those playing the game are the team. They either win together or lose together, but either way, they’re all in it together.
Sibling rivalry exists in most families with more than one child. This is a fact. Even the healthiest families often deal with challenging sibling dynamics.
But when children have experienced neglect or trauma, their need for attention and empowerment can be even greater. As we have struggled with significant conflict between siblings—both biological siblings and foster siblings—we have found that playing cooperative games has been a great way to build connections and laugh together minus the competition of traditional board games.
Cooperative games are also a really positive way to connect with your child. While it’s fun to play Candyland or Connect 4 with them, it’s not as much fun for them if they lose. With a cooperative game, they are never the only “loser.”
Here are five of my favorite cooperative games. They are all aimed at younger children, but when we play together as a family, everyone has fun.
- Outfoxed. This is my favorite and the one that everyone young and old enjoys. It’s a “whodunit” game where players collect clues and solve a crime. This is something we often give as birthday presents for kids between 5-9, but our four-year-old can totally play it too.
- Hoot, Owl, Hoot. This is great for little ones. The game maker recommends it for ages 4-8, but it works for 3-year-olds if they are playing with an adult who can coach them through the play.
- Race to the Treasure. I love playing this with all of my kids (ages 4-10). It involves strategy and cooperation, plus it teaches some geometry basics!
- Count Your Chickens. This is a great game for kids as little as three that reinforces counting and social skills.
- Silly Street. This is a game we love playing at Family Meeting! Everyone playing gets to be silly together. Laughter abounds when Mom and Dad are demonstrating how a kangaroo might do karate or standing like a flamingo. While there is a “winner” in the sense that one person reaches the end of the game first, we keep playing til everyone reaches the end, then we have a dance party!
I absolutely love cooperative games! How about you? Do you have any favorites to share?
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