A comprehensive guide for teaching young children cooperative skills in a competitive society.
Ideally, kids’ games should be fun for everyone. But in this book, Lyons (Empowering Young Voices for the Planet, 2014, etc.) points out that “all too often they are stress-ridden, competitive encounters that activate aggression and create divisions.” She asserts that cooperative games, on the other hand, show “the experience of inclusivity, mutual respect, and peaceful contact” as desirable qualities, thus preventing anti-social behavior. This resource guide lays out an easy-to-implement program to prevent bullying and other forms of aggression. Specifically, it includes instructions for 57 cooperative games, suggestions for incorporating collaborative skills in the classroom, and annotated research supporting the benefits of such efforts. In modern American culture, Lyons argues, “competition, like wallpaper, is so pervasive that we rarely notice it, let alone question it.” Yet she also says that decades of studies demonstrate a link between competition and aggression, which, in turn, can lead to bullying. Early chapters encourage a cooperative mindset in a variety of activities; they even offer tweaks to more competitive games such as tag or Simon Says. Later chapters delve into research that shows that cooperative games encourage prosocial actions. The games presented are well-organized and engaging; one can imagine the fun of “Giant Animals,” in which each child becomes part of a larger creature that moves as a single entity. Clear instructions include time estimates and emphasized skills, such as “understanding emotions.” The charming pen-and-ink illustrations and photographs of diverse children complement the upbeat tone. At times, Lyons’ own game company, CooperativeGames.com, is featured a bit heavily, but she also explores other cooperative and bullying-prevention programs. Materials for teachers, including an explanatory letter to parents, a volunteer request form, and an informative games index (featuring each game’s title, type, number of players, and emphasized skills), make this book valuable for both its scholarship and its practicality.
An excellent resource for fostering cooperation as a force for positive social change.