How soon is too soon to learn about collaboration? Most babies get their first inkling of teamwork by the time they’re 6 months old, old enough to enjoy a rousing exchange of peek-a-boo.
“From our earliest years, collaboration builds our critical thinking capabilities and introduces us to different ways of solving a problem as we work toward a shared purpose,” said Dr. Susan Canizares, Chief Academic Officer at Childtime. “Collaborating builds social and emotional skills, hones communication skills and improves a child’s self-confidence. As they share ideas, children learn to recognize and respect others’ abilities and opinions.”
While it might seem counterintuitive, working together also fosters independence, according to Canizares. “Studies show that children who are able to collaborate are stronger independent thinkers than children who are less able to collaborate. This is why we develop lesson plans that encourage children to work together and build on each other’s knowledge.”
Childtime schools nationwide are celebrating Work Together Wednesday today as part of the company’s Week of the Young Child activities. Check out this YouTube video showing teamwork in action at Childtime and its sister schools.
Teamwork starts at home
Here are some activities that can help your child develop collaborative skills at home:
Dig in – Gardening teaches children to take care of living things and develops patience. It also sharpens fine motor skills, supports math skills and builds hand-eye coordination. Start with a few seeds or plants that grow quickly, such as sunflowers, beans or peas. Your budding botanist will enjoy a growing sense of accomplishment working with you as the garden evolves.
Cooking up hands-on fun – Cooking with the family is among the best ways for children to feel they’ve contributed as they develop skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives. Helping wash vegetables, pour, peel, squeeze, mix and knead – these are all kid-appropriate, important jobs for little hands to do in the kitchen. Following a recipe together also gives children a meaningful way to apply math skills.
Score with chores – Giving children household chores at an early age has long-term emotional, social and academic benefits. Household responsibilities help develop self-respect and promote independence. Set a challenge to see how many toys can be put away before the buzzer sounds. Fun tools such as a short-handled broom or hand vacuum make tasks more appealing. Be consistent with your expectations.
Be handy and DIY – Involving kids in home improvement projects empowers them and helps develop problem-solving skills. Painting is easy and rewarding for children; they immediately see the results of their work and mistakes are easily correctable. A four-year-old can help build ready-to-assemble furniture, peel wallpaper or tile a backsplash. Be sure tasks are properly supervised.
Break out the board games – Make game time a family tradition. Board games and outdoor games encourage cooperation and teamwork while helping children learn to think for themselves. Be sure the activities are age-appropriate for the youngest participating, and that everyone understands the rules and object of the game. Give it your all, because your child will be attuned to your level of enthusiasm.
Tips to support collaboration
Who’s next?– Getting along with others in social situations starts with learning to take turns, follow instructions and share. Build turn taking into playtime and wherever else you can in your child’s everyday routine. Acknowledge good sharing.
Waiting is the hardest part – Sixty seconds is an eternity for a 3-year-old. Engage your child in another activity while they wait for their turn. Using a timer makes waiting exciting as children watch the sand fall or anticipate the buzzer. Each turn can also last as long as a short song or nursery rhyme.
Kindness counts – Encourage good sportsmanship and keep competition friendly. Being excluded from a project or team can be upsetting. Help your child grasp the idea of empathy through teachable moments. Kindness can be as simple as passing the ball, or sharing a box of crayons.
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