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5 Cooperative Games for Kids: Indoor & Outdoor Activities


Are you a caregiver looking for new and exciting ways to introduce your child to teamwork? Read on to uncover a wide variety of cooperative games for kids.

As a caregiver, you want to nurture social-emotional skills in your child like cooperation, empathy, and communication. Luckily, one of the most effective ways to strengthen these skills can also be a lot of fun: Cooperative games. 

Cooperative games for kids encourage teamwork and collaboration, letting them use their social skills to explore different types of play with other children. When there’s no winner or loser in a game, children can focus on working together towards a common goal and building their social emotional skills.

If you’d like to inspire your kids to incorporate more collaborative games in their playtime but you’re not sure where to start, you’re in the right place. We’ve put together a list of 5 exciting and engaging games and activities that will get kids working together while having a blast. 

What Exactly Is a Cooperative Game?

When you think about any great game, the first examples that come to mind might be the competitive variety, whether it is checkers, Monopoly, or kickball. From the simplest board game to organized sports, most of the games we play are all about winners, losers, and “beating” the opponent. 

Competitive play can be valuable, but it can also encourage some negative attitudes and outcomes. Researchers have found that competitive play has a few downsides:

  • Competitive games can increase aggressive behavior
  • Competitive games can increase competitive behavior in general
  • Children report less enjoyment of competitive games than cooperative games

Cooperative gameplay, on the other hand, emphasizes teamwork. It’s not about being the best or outperforming others. Instead, players work together to beat a challenge, and they win or lose together. 

Benefits of Playing Cooperative Games

A common misconception about cooperative play is that you’re shielding younger children from losing a game. However, it’s actually a vital way for children to practice prosocial behavior. Prosocial behaviors include collaborating, sharing, and fairness. Learning and practicing these skills will develop the foundation to navigate big feelings and teams. 

Cooperative activities can:

Best of all, kids love cooperative games. Studies have found that some preschoolers enjoy cooperative play more than competitive ones. 

5 Fun Cooperative Games for Kids

If you think cooperative games are limited to board games, think again. There are plenty of fun cooperative games to play with kids outside and inside, and some can even be invented with objects you may have lying around the house.

#1 Board Games

Gone are the days when the family board game collection was limited to old standards like Monopoly, Sorry!, and Candy Land, which were almost guaranteed to lead to frustration. Now, families can find cooperative board games for different ages, so even the youngest toddlers and kids can learn basics like turn-taking and problem-solving—without tears or arguments. 

Here are three we love:

  • Feelings Adventure – Players help their favorite Slumberkins characters hunt for missing feelings and bring them back to the magical Feelings Tree before time runs out. This game is ideal for helping caregivers, teachers, and therapists talk with kids about big feelings in a fun and positive setting.
  • Hoot Owl Hoot – In this color-matching game, kids help adorable owls find their way back home before day breaks. The game can be adjusted to be more or less challenging as kids get older.
  • My First Castle Panic! – If your child loves monsters, dragons, and castles, this could be the perfect game for them. Players collaborate to match colors and shapes to defend their castle from the invading monsters. 

#2 Creating and Drawing Stories

You might not think of storytelling as a game for younger children, but it can be. Sit down with paper and coloring supplies, or one of our Kinspiration Kits, then have kids take turns writing or drawing a story piece by piece. It’s a perfect recipe for developing empathy and imagination.

  • Encourage kids to dream up a character
  • Have them imagine what it might be like to be in their shoes
  • Use story dice or cards for inspiration
  • Help kids move the story forward with open-ended prompts and questions (“What’s the most surprising thing that could happen? Who could walk in the door?”)

#3 Building Obstacle Courses

Get active with an indoor or outdoor obstacle course created from household items like pillows, boxes, and chairs. Let kids design the course, then cheer each other on as they take turns completing it. 

For an added team-building twist, have one child navigate the course blindfolded while their partner verbally guides them through. 

#4 Water Balloon Toss

If you need to keep a small group busy while enjoying the outdoors, nothing beats a water balloon toss. But it doesn’t have to be a competition. Instead, gather your group in a circle and work together to pass the balloons around without dropping them.

Try fun variations on how balloons are passed, such as:

  • Speed relay – Pass the balloon around the circle as fast as possible.
  • No hands – Pass the balloon only using the elbows or between the neck and shoulder.
  • The more, the merrier – Start multiple balloons around the circle at the same time while kids pass them as fast as they can.

#5 Building Towers

Construction toys naturally lend themselves to collaborative problem-solving as children work to figure out how to balance and stabilize their creations. Simply provide building blocks or even recycled materials such as water bottles, plastic tubs, milk cartons, or egg cartons, and watch the ideas begin to flow.

Have your group try:

  • Seeing how high a tower can be stacked
  • Drawing a structural plan together, then building by following the plan
  • Designing and building a city
  • Constructing a bridge 

Cooperative Playtime Is Better with Slumberkins

Cooperative games aren’t just entertaining—they’re powerful tools for promoting teamwork and fostering positive social interactions. By working together toward a goal, kids learn that everyone’s input matters, and success is sweeter when shared.

As your child explores the world of cooperative play, Slumberkins can help by enriching every playtime with meaning and growth. 

Our social-emotional learning tools include lovable characters, exciting activities, and games that help kids of different ages learn and grow while having fun. Our Kinspiration Kits help foster meaningful play by providing all the caregiver resources needed to help little people grow into strong, confident, and caring individuals. Join the journey of connection today with Slumberkins.


Sources: 


British Journal of Educational Psychology. The effect of peer collaboration on children's problem-solving ability. https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1348/000709904X23411 


The Journal for Specialists in Group Work. Let's all play together nicely: Facilitating collaboration in children’s groups. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01933922.2017.1338809? 


Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. The behavioral effects of cooperative and competitive board games in preschoolers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8248432/

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