Cooperative Games for Kids: Building a Team
Why Is a Team Mindset Important?
Few jobs don't require a team mindset. Our world is built around the idea of “the team.” In the workplace, team members work together to reach goals. In school, students work in teams to complete projects. Everything revolves around teams.
Learning to be a part of a team teaches vital social skills. Teamwork requires team members to compromise, share, and split the spotlight. Good team members are better companions, less selfish, and take criticism with ease. Parents can teach their kids to be good team members young by introducing simple team building games.
While kids are young, their minds are moldable, meaning that it's easier to learn habits and social instincts. Simple team building games help to shape the kids' minds and help them learn what it means to be a helpful team member.
Team building games are also called “cooperative games." All members of the team must cooperate or risk losing the game as a group. Cooperative games mimic real-life stresses because the group will either win together or lose together.
This article will help parents and adults find the perfect team building games and activities for young kids. Playing team-building games at least once a month with young children will help them learn to work towards a common goal and contribute to shared decision making.
Outdoor Cooperative Games
There are few things better than playing with a group of friends outside on a nice sunny day. Adults should take full advantage of the sunlight and encourage the kids to play cooperative games outside (with sunscreen, of course). Kids playing outside will often create their own cooperative play games such as becoming ghost fighting treasure hunters or begin looking for buried treasure. Here are the five best structured cooperative games for playing outside.
Airplane is a great game because it encourages blind teamwork. To play, select one person to be the airplane and another to be the navigator. Everyone else will spread out in the field and pretend to be a tree. The players pretending to be trees should stand with the arms out to make the game more difficult for the navigator.
The airplane stands at a starting point and places a blindfold over their eyes. The navigator will stand at a fixed position near the starting point and yell out instructions for the airplane, such as, “Take two steps forward.” The goal is to avoid any of the trees on the field. If the airplane crashes, the game is over. The trees can take three steps in any direction from their original starting points, ensuring that the airplane can't take a straight path to get to the other side.
This game encourages cooperation between the navigator and the airplane, while the trees are actively trying to sabotage the flight. The navigator will have to think creatively to get the airplane to the other side safely. At the same time, the trees will need to work together to crash the airplane.
- Mafia (Werewolf)
Mafia (also called Werewolf) is a classic camp game. The easiest way to play is with a deck of cards. You will need the following cards pulled out of the deck:
- Two queens
- Two kings
- Two aces
- Enough of the other cards for the rest of the players
Deal everyone a card. Depending on how many players you have, you can adjust the number of kings, queens, and aces dealt. For example, if you're playing with a small group of ten or less, only have one of each of the special cards.
The officiator of the game (also called the narrator) will hand out the cards to the players sitting in a circle. If you receive a queen, you are the doctor. If you receive the king, you are the sheriff or detective. If you receive the ace, you are the mafia or werewolf.
The narrator starts the game by explaining the cards and what they mean. Throughout the game, all players will bow their heads and close their eyes. The narrator will announce, “Mafia, open your eyes.” The mafia opens their eyes and point at someone to kill. The narrator will then say, “Mafia, close your eyes.” Next, the narrator says, “Sheriffs, open your eyes.” The sheriffs will open their eyes and point at someone to investigate. If the player chosen is not the mafia, the narrator will shake their head. If the chosen player is the mafia, the narrator will nod. The narrator then says, “Sheriffs, close your eyes.” Finally, the narrator calls on the doctors, “Doctors, open your eyes.” The doctor looks up and chooses one person to heal. If the doctor heals the same person that the mafia killed, the player lives through the round. If the doctor doesn't choose correctly, the player dies.
Once everyone has done their part, the narrator tells everyone to open their eyes. The narrator launches into a story describing what happened “during the night.” A story could go like this:
“Last night, a boy was walking down the street. He thought he heard someone walking behind him. He quickly checked over his shoulder and saw a small black cat jump into an alleyway. The boy laughed, thinking he was just paranoid. But when he turned back around, he came face to face with a member of the mafia. [Enter name of the player who the mafia chose] was found dead this morning.”
If the doctor could save them, add that the doctor arrived on the scene just in time to save his life. If the player died, they have to lie down on the grass and can't actively participate in the game; however, they can keep their eyes open throughout the night and watch behind the scenes.
The goal of the group is to find out who the mafia members (or werewolves) are. At the end of every round, the townspeople can choose one person to vote out. The mafia members try to stay alive and blend in with the other townspeople.
This game is perfect because it evokes imagination in kids. Depending on the group's maturity, this game could be better for older children and not the best activity for little ones. This is also a great game for a family game night or birthday party.
Assassin is another fun cooperative game where the kids have to work together towards a common goal. This is another favorite game among older kids but may be too difficult for preschoolers and younger kids. To play, have all the kids sit in a circle with their legs crossed. For a brief moment, everyone will close their eyes, and the adult leader will walk around and tap someone on the head. That player will become the assassin.
The assassin eliminates the other children by winking at them. If a child receives a wink, they wait ten seconds and then put their legs out straight in front of them and lean back on their arms. Dramatic kids will play this out in a funny way, pretending that they've been shot by falling and flailing.
If one of the players thinks they know who the assassin is, they can say, “I have a suspect.” Everyone turns their attention to the player speaking. Then they say, “I suspect [name of player].” If they're right, everyone wins the game. If they're wrong, they die.
Another version of this game is Sandman, where the Sandman puts the other players to sleep instead of killing them.
Ghost is a form of tag that is fun for all players. The game starts with two “ghosts.” Everyone else closes their eyes and walks around the park slowly. The ghosts try to trail behind someone for ten seconds. If the person thinks that there's a ghost behind them, they can ask, “Is there a ghost behind me?” If the person is right, they get to become a ghost and trail other players. If they're wrong, they're out of the game.
If the ghost can trail someone for ten seconds without them noticing, the ghost will lightly tap them on the shoulder, and the person has to go sit at the edge of the playing field.
The simplicity of this game makes it easy for the kids to play on their own. Most kids will be able to remember the easy rules. It is a great game because it encourages young kids to pay close attention to their surroundings and listen for the soft noise of trailing footsteps.
- Crossing the River
Crossing the River requires teamwork and intense cooperation, perfect for preschoolers and young children. To play, everyone lines up in a straight line, all facing forward. The kids will put their toe to the back heel of the person in front of them. Tell the kids that they need to cross a river by walking toe to heel. While walking, every kid's foot needs to be touching the person in front and behind them. If someone takes a step and the person behind doesn't keep touching their heel, the whole group has to start over and return to the starting line.
This game encourages the group to work together with verbal commands. It is a fun game to build cooperation skills. This game can be played without strict parental supervision as long as the kids are old enough to remember how to play the game.
Indoor Cooperative Games
When the kids need to be inside, it's important to have fun, cooperative games to play. In this section, you will find five of the best cooperative and interactive games that can be played indoors.
- Black Magic
Black Magic is a great game for older kids and may be too complicated for kids younger than seven years old. The game is simple and can be played inside or outside. To play, you will need two people who already know how to play the game. Everyone else will need to use clues and context to figure out the game rules by themselves.
One person will leave the room (they must know how to play) while the second person who knows how to play will have the rest of the group point to an object in the room. Once the object is selected, they will bring the player back into the room. The leader will point to an object and ask, “Is it this purple shirt?” The player will shake his or her head no or yes. Again, the leader will point to objects until the other person says which one it is. The trick of the game is that the leader will point to a black object, such as a shoe or phone case. The object directly after the black object has to be the object that the group chose earlier.
For those who don't know the rules of the game, it will seem like magic because the player out of the room will guess the object correctly every single round.
After a few rounds, the two players who know how to play should start giving hints such as, “Remember, the name of the game is black magic.” All of the kids will have to work together to figure out the secret to playing the game.
- Among Us
Among Us has quickly taken off as one of the most popular mobile games. During the 2020 pandemic, the game soared to the top of the charts, even though the Inner Sloth originally released the game in 2018. The game allows players to gather remotely, connecting them in a fun game that requires the players to work together towards a common goal.
The premise of the mobile game is that a group of astronauts was sent to space. Somehow, an alien takes over one or two of the astronauts. The alien tries to take out the other players while the crewmates try to vote out the alien. The game is similar to Mafia but played over a mobile setting. This game can be easily played as a remote game using a one-time code passed out to the players who you want to join your lobby.
The game is simple enough that even a toddler can play and grasp the concept of the game. The game's chat can also be censored, keeping it appropriate for young audiences.
- Team Counting
Team counting is a simple game that requires no skill but a lot of teamwork. Have all of the kids sit in a circle. One person starts by saying, “One.” Another person says, “Two,” and so on until you reach ten. However, there are three main rules to the game.
The first rule is that there can't be a format to determine who says the next number. For example, you can't simply go around the circle and count. The group has to figure out a way to work together without curing who goes next.
The second rule is that if two or more people say the same number simultaneously, the group must start over from one. Most groups will have to start over more than ten times as they try to count to ten.
The final rule is that one person can't say two numbers in a row. This prevents one person from doing half of the counting. Because everyone must contribute to the counting, it encourages the group to learn new ways to work together. The group must rely on physical cues to know when it's safe to say the next letter.
Storytelling is another simple activity that encourages the entire group to cooperate. To do this activity, the group will sit in a circle. One person starts telling the first sentence of a story. The next person in the circle contributes the second sentence in the story. The story goes around the circle until the entire group decides that the story is over.
This game requires imagination and cooperation. If the kids are struggling to start the story, try offering the first sentence. Here are some first sentence ideas:
- When I opened my eyes, I was on mars.
- He couldn't believe that his best friend was a ghost.
- She was reading a book when she heard the sound of hooves on the roof.
- They were walking down the street and thought they saw a unicorn in their neighbor's house.
- I slipped in a puddle on my way to the school bus and woke up as a dog.
The story doesn't have to make sense. The best part of this activity is that it encourages the kids to get creative in their storytelling. The kids will have to work together to get the story flowing as it moves from one person to the next.
You will need a wide area where everyone can lay down on the ground to play this game. Have the first kid lay down on their back on the ground. The next person will lay with their head on the stomach of the first kid. This continues until everyone is lying on someone else's stomach, creating a long chain.
The first person will shout one, “HA!” The next person will repeat it until everyone has shouted one, “HA!” without laughing. The next round starts with two, “HA! HA!” until everyone has shouted it. The goal is to get to ten without everyone laughing their heads off.
This game will get the whole group laughing and shrieking. As the person in front of them laughs, their stomach will move up and down, making the next child start laughing.
Team-Building Board Games
Board games never grow old. One of the best ways to get a group of young children laughing and working together is by playing a fun team board game. Smaller groups can also play a multiplayer video game like Mario, where each player works towards the same goal. Whether they're playing a video game or a board game, the kids can relax on a bean bag and learn how to work as a team. Here are the best cooperative board games.
Telestrations is a fun game to play with young kids. For this game, the kids must be able to write simple sentences and identify pictures. As long as they can identify something and write its name, they can play this fun game. This cooperative board game is funny and entertaining for all ages.
Telestrations is fairly simple to play and easy to explain to young kids. The game includes a deck of cards, each with several words or phrases, dice, a timer, sketchbooks, and dry-erase markers. Each player will need one card, a sketchbook, and a dry-erase pen.
One person rolls the dice. The number of the dice will correspond with a word on their card. Each person will write that word on their card and then turn to the next page and draw the word. After drawing, they will flip to the next page and pass their book onto the next person.
The next person peeks at what you drew and writes what they think you drew a picture of (without looking at the original word). After writing what they think you drew, they pass it on. The next person will draw the word and then pass it on. The game continues similar to a game of Telephone.
By the end, the final word or picture will be drastically different from the beginning word. Each person will show off their booklet to show how the pictures and words progressed throughout the game, getting a big laugh from the whole group. This easy gameplay is perfect for everyone.
- Forbidden Island
Forbidden Island is the first in a series of games: Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, and Forbidden Sky. It is a cooperative game where all the players must work together to win or lose. It's a competitive game that has the players racing the clock to win.
Forbidden Island's premise is that a team of adventures must work together to stop an island from sinking before you can find the island's treasure. Once you've captured the island's treasure, you must escape on a helicopter. If the island sinks before you find the treasure and escape, the mission fails.
The rules of the game will need to be read and explained by an adult to the children playing. However, once the kids get started, this game will give them hours of cooperative teamwork and exciting fun. The game encourages children to think outside the box and use their imagination to put themselves in the shoes of adventurers finding an island full of treasure.
- Hogwarts Battle
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a cooperative game perfect for Harry Potter fans. In this game, the players pose as Harry Potter students who protect Hogwarts from Voldemort and his dark wizards. The game can be played by two to four people, making it perfect for smaller groups.
The group is a team that must work together to push back the wizards of the dark arts. The game focuses on deck building and is fairly easy to play. Hogwarts Battle is a great game for Harry Potter enthusiasts looking for other ways to bring Harry Potter to life. In this game, the players will immerse themselves in the Hogwarts world and play as the main characters from Harry Potter.
- Code Names
Code Names is both a cooperative game and a competitive game. Two different teams are pitted against one another. Each team uses one spokesperson or spymaster. The spymaster can see a secret key that shows which tiles belong to the Red team and which tiles belong to the Blue team. Each tile will have a single word. The spymaster can say one word that connects the different tiles. Their team will use the single word clue to guess which words are theirs. However, if they chose the wrong word, they could give a point to the other team or even lose the game entirely.
Code Names requires intense teamwork. Each team will have to work together to figure out which words belong to their team and which words don't.
Remind each team to be careful, or they might choose the single word that ends the game!
- Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters
Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters is a dice game where the dice tells the players where they can move. The four players have to work as a team to get out of the haunted house. While escaping from the haunted house, the players also try to collect the treasure in the house. If six of the eight rooms become haunted before the players escape with the treasure, they lose the game.
This fun cooperative game sparks imagination as the kids move from room to room, trying to avoid and escape the ghosts lurking in the background. It is the perfect game for small groups.