Cooperative Games

The stations which you'll find described on my Night Manoeuvres Page are also all cooperative games. They can also be played in the daylight (well, most of them anyway)...

Why Play Cooperative Games?

Cooperation is directly related to communication, cohesiveness, trust, and the development of positive social-interaction skills. Through co-operative ventures, children learn to share, to empathize with others, to be concerned with others' feelings, and to work and get along better. The players in the game must help one another by working together as a unit -- each player being a necessary part of that unit, with a contribution to make -- and leaving no one out of the action to sit around waiting for a chance to play. The fact that children work together towards a common end, rather than against one another, immediately turns destructive responses into helpful ones: players feel that they are an accepted part of the game, and thus feel totally involved. The result is a sense of gaining, not losing.

The goal of these cooperative games is to heighten the children's' self-esteem, feelings of acceptance by the group, and sense of trust. And of course, to have fun! These games work particularly well with girls of Guide age and up, but with a bit of modification, can be played by Brownies too.

Facilitating Cooperative Games
(this section is taken from the Freechild Project at

Follow the Facilitator

Presenting games as important and meaningful is challenging for the most experienced facilitators. A facilitator’s job has three parts: lead the activities, guide the reflection, and be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious! Keep debriefing simple and straightforward. Also, share personal experiences and remember that as a young person, a student, a community member or an adult ally, you have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from. Often, the mood of the instructor will set the tone for the entire group. So above all be positive and have fun with the activity, with the session, and with the players.

Creating Guidelines & Goals

Have participants create ground rules or guidelines before you begin the games. Brainstorm potential rules and write them down, but avoid too many rules. There are three essential guidelines:

Every group should have some specific goals that all players agree on. Some goals have included: Break down the barriers that may exist between students such as race, sex, background, and social status; Build a sense of teamwork and purpose; Show that everyone has different strengths and abilities to offer the group and that no one is better than anyone else.

Framing & Sequencing

The purpose of the games is often set during the introduction, or framing, of the activity. The activity may be introduced as a story, creating a magical place where dangerous things can happen without teamwork. For a more mature group, games can be introduced as metaphors, alerting the participants to look for deeper meaning. Another important consideration is the order in which you play games, or sequencing. If a group has never played together, it might be important to do icebreakers and to “soften” the personal space bubble. If they are more comfortable with each other, try bursting the bubble, and get deep in your activities. Try to put complex activities after less challenging ones, to build a sense of accomplishment.

Reflect, Reflect, Reflect

One way to highlight the role of games in social change is in the reflection after the activity. An easy way to see the relevance of reflection is to picture games as a circle: you start with an explanation of the activity, framing its purpose and goals to the group. The activity progresses, with the facilitator taking a more hands-on or less guiding approach as needed. Finally, the group reflection helps participants see how they met the goal, and to envision the broader social change implications. Then the group has come full-circle. Be as concrete or as “spacey” as you want; during the activities it’s important to “lose ourselves” in what we’re doing, and to have a lot of fun. But remember to bring it all back to reality with the reflection. Reflecting on the activities is vital to bring the group back to the reason why they’re playing games. The following types of questions are useful in reflecting:

Connecting With Purpose

At best these activities can serve as bridges between social change work, learning, and community building, reinforcing the need for communication, co-learning, and collective decision-making. At worst, they can be tools of oppression and alienation, serving to support vertical education practices and isolate people from each other.

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