Supporting collaboration in early childhood: Here's what to know

Being able to work with others is a skill both children and adults need to develop in order to work well in school and the office.
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Being able to work with others is a skill both children and adults need to develop throughout life in order to work well in school and the office. Cooperation is an important part of relationships, and children learn to respect others and to control their emotions through collaboration. Getting a child to cooperate with others in group activities can often be a challenge, but it is important for your child to develop this skill. Peer interaction and collaboration start early in life and helping your child understand the value of working well with others is key to encouraging his cooperation in group activities.

Invite your child’s friends over for a play date. One of the best ways to foster group work and collaboration is to encourage play and organize play dates with several friends. Your child may be great at playing with one friend, but it takes new skills when there is more than one friend included. Talk with your child about making sure to include all friends in play, not just one. The more your child interacts with multiple friends, the more he will be able to discuss solutions and work in groups. Just as we wouldn’t ask a five-year-old to complete a high school math test, you should not expect your five-year-old to play with five friends without conflicts. You can create an environment where your child will learn gradually, by providing him with space and time necessary for him to learn how to navigate through these types of interactions at his own pace. By being patient and supportive, you are helping him to gain important problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills, and you are giving him the opportunity to evaluate and hone his social abilities.

Encourage good sportsmanship. As your child gets older and begins to engage in more sports, the concept of competition emerges. Remind your child that winning or losing does not define his success and that he should not forget to be caring and kind in all his interactions in life, including competitions. Teach your child to shake the hands of the opposing team members after a game, regardless of its outcome, and to be a gracious winner and loser.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.