With many kids back in school or just starting school for the first time, social and cooperative team building games are going to be a huge part of your preschooler’s day. Whether you’re looking for ideas for your kid’s next play date or birthday party or you’re a teacher looking for ways to make the school day both fun and full of useful lessons, these 5 team building games for preschoolers are going to provide the perfect balance between entertainment and educational value. Before we get into the list, however, I think it’s important to go over what the benefits of team building are for preschoolers and how we can make playtime an opportunity for teaching social and emotional skills.
Benefits of Cooperative Play
Some of the greatest benefits of team building games and cooperative play come from the social development of working with others. With the pandemic forcing many into remote learning, these much needed social interactions were put on hold for over a year! Now that it’s becoming safe to return to in-person schooling again, we can expect many of these games to be critical to introducing young kids to social interactions and norms.
One of the first things kids are taught in preschool is the value of getting along with others. Bullying and rough play are not tolerated and kids are encouraged to find ways they can use playtime to learn more about each other. During cooperative play, these lessons are hammered in through repetition and difficult tasks. Kids are taught the value of working with each other in order to complete a goal that is seemingly impossible to achieve on their own.
Teamwork teaches kids several things. Healthline.com says that kids specifically benefit from working with peers by learning about cooperation, communication, empathy, trust, conflict resolution, and so much more. The games on this list cover not only these benefits, but some of them also have value in emotional intelligence and SEL education. If you haven’t yet read my writing on the value of these forms of education (EI and SEL), I encourage you to visit this article here where I dive deep into the subject. Now for our list.
Team Building Activities for Preschoolers
1. Relay Races
Relay races are a childhood favorite of mine and teach a valuable lesson about the need to work with others. On our own, we may be the fastest, smartest, or most able in the whole class, but relay races teach us that there’s only so much that we can accomplish by ourselves. We have to put our trust and faith in others in order to succeed. This game teaches kids to encourage each other and to show resilience by not giving up when they’re behind in the race!
But these games don’t have to be completely competitive either. A typical relay race can be fun, but there is limited entertainment value in running them over and over again (except for the future track stars!) However, you can augment relay races to make them more fun! Including the adults for one leg of the relay race can give the kids something to laugh about. Maybe include hurdles in the adult’s portion so they can really have something to laugh at.
Another thing to try is dress-up relay races where the runners have to assemble an interesting costume from a wardrobe during the race. This gives everyone something to laugh about and the kids who aren’t athletically inclined can also have something to really enjoy in the dress-up portion. Including all kinds of other activities as add-ons to the relay race can give everyone something to enjoy and can keep the game fresh and fun for everyone!
2. Build a Marshmallow Tower
Inspired by a TED Talk from Tom Wujec, the marshmallow tower game is one that may pose a challenge for many kids. Thankfully, that’s the intention with this game as the challenge can be circumvented with creativity and teamwork, teaching valuable lessons along the way. Here’s how the game works:
Given 18 minutes, 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti, one yard of masking tape, one yard of string, and a single marshmallow, kids will have to work in teams to build a structure that will support and elevate the marshmallow. Whichever team’s marshmallow rests tallest by the end of 18 minutes are the winners! Seems simple, right? This game is actually incredibly complex and is played by adults and children alike as a way to teach cooperation, out of the box thinking, and putting a plan into action.
Now because this is a difficult task, it is common for young kids to lose interest when things start to get away from them. That’s why, for younger kids, it may be better to give them some time to plan their ideas beforehand. This will also help teach them planning skills that could help with other activities. Either way, this activity is meant to teach some important skills in a fun, cooperative way that will surely be remembered for a long time!
3. Three-Legged Race
Building off of the relay race activity, the three-legged race has been around almost as long as racing. It involves tying the right leg of one person to the left leg of another and racing as a three-legged team against another team or teams. The rules are simple, but this activity is harder than it looks. Expect falls, spills, and lots of fun!
Where this game really shines is in its ability to teach the value of communication. If the two members of each team don’t communicate with each other, they can expect to fall down multiple times. Only by figuring out a system for them to know when to raise their conjoined limb can they hope to best the other teams. This game is sure to make everyone laugh, but I definitely recommend playing it on grass or soft ground!
4. Tell Me Your Life
What an amazing game that comes to us from firstcry.com. I had never heard of this one, but it’s quickly become one of my absolute favorites. Tell Me Your Life is simple, fun, and teaches valuable emotional skills in an easy to learn way! The rules are simple:
“A bowl of cards is passed around among the kids. On the cards are emotions, either happy, sad, excited, scared, and so on. Based on the emotion, a kid has 30 seconds to search for a memory of their life that can be connected to that emotion. Then, the kid ends up talking about it to everyone around.”
This game can be a little difficult for young kids as it relies on their language and memory skills, however, it is not only great for building these skills, but it also gets kids to open up more and discuss their personal lives with each other. Shy kids will definitely struggle in this game, but it’s good for them to come out of their shells a bit and by associating emotions with their memories, their enthusiasm to share details about themselves may increase significantly.
Additionally, this game may inspire friendships between kids who share similar experiences/emotions. Just watch for the reactions of all the different participants to pick up on who’s really having a good time!
5. Dream Drawing
Another idea that comes to us from firstcry.com, Dream Drawing is an imagination game that inspires creativity, teamwork, cooperation, improvisation, and artistic expression. The idea is as follows:
“All kids come together to one place with chalks or crayons and start drawing their dream objects. Some could draw a spaceship, others could draw a dragon, and so on. Once everyone is done with their drawing, kids can work together to choose the drawings and create a wonderful story from it.”
Even if this game were just the drawing portion, then it would be a fun, accessible activity, but with the added storytelling component, this game reaches a whole new level of excitement. By sharing their dream drawings with each other, kids learn to work with each other’s ideas and strengths in order to make something truly unique. It prioritizes personal expression in a way that inspires something amazing to come out of the individual parts.
I love this game because it brings kids together and creates something that represents each and every one of them together. It’s a lesson that many people could truly use in this day and age where we find ourselves continually becoming more isolated from each other. Give it a try next time you’re looking for something to do with the kiddos.
That about wraps up our list. Each of these games teaches emotional intelligence skills based on creativity, teamwork, motivation, goal-setting, self-awareness, leadership skills, empathy, emotional recognition, and so much more. I’ve always said that kids learn best when they’re having fun and these games are no exception. These games are not just ways to pass the time; they’re really useful for making memories that kids will look back on with joy! Have you tried any of these games or do you have any other ones to recommend? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!