It is not a secret that I am a HUGE fan and proponent of cooperative games (blogged here). We have this fantastic giveaway brought to us by Ken Kolsbun at Cooperative Games.
Save the Whales is one of their most popular games with good reason.
The board is beautiful and we learned a ton about whales while playing this.
The game pieces are a good solid quality metal and there are no plastic pieces in this game.
That's all great. I'm all for all of that but the thing about this game that really rocks my world is the cooperative aspect. Cooperative games, for those new to the concept are games that require all players to play towards a common goal to win the game rather than competing against each other for an individual winner. Last time I wrote on this subject I received this comment on my post:
I like the idea of incorporating a few cooperative games, however, to limit all games to this type of "no one ever gets their feelings hurt" games would only do our children an injustice. Life isn't competitive, but it isn't alway fair. I think that more importantly, kids need to lean how to handle life's curve balls and unfairness. Why not teach your children to be good sports about winning and losing games? Such is life. Children don't need to deal with life's hardships, I agree. But to protect against any such ill-feelings, game playing included, might create an unrealistic expectation of always getting your way. I don't mean any disrespect...but what is so wrong with competition anyway? See, this is what drives people...not to be greedy, but to provide more....more jobs, more lots of things. In theory it sounds great, but in reality it won't work...this isn't candyland.
I love this comment for so many reasons! First of all, I didn't say that we only play cooperative games in our home, but that we definitely incorporate some into our mix. I feel very strongly that if every home in America had at least one of theses games our world would shift dramatically- I really do!
But my next point here is really my favorite. I love the ideas that some people have about our house and family- that we all sit around being so wonderfully cooperative with each other, squirrels pop out of the forest and greet us in the morning and birds bring us our morning buttercup nectar. We've always had cooperative games in our home and competition does not play a dominant role in our lives, true. However, the reality of the situation is that it is often actually harder, or well, more complex, let's say- to work cooperatively than independently 'beating' your opponent.
This game challenges kids in a way that win/loose does not at all. Here's an example: The little sister is rather phlegmatic in temperament (that is the Pooh character) so she loves nothing more than to collect things and hang on to things! In this game all players are working together to save the whales so that they do not go into extinction. Well, at one point we were wanting to pool our money to save one whale and she happened to have the most money- which she really wanted to keep! She was pushed by her big sister to the near point of tears to giving up her lovely stash of money. I in no way shape or form see my job as a parent as sheltering my children from things that are difficult for them. I see these as enormous growth and learning experiences for them. I do not offer cooperative games to them to protect them from having 'hurt feelings.' My criteria is that the lesson learned be of one of value. The whale in question here that was being saved was not hers, but her sisters, but it was requiring her money to help save it. Remember, this is a game of working together to save all the whales. When we accomplish that we've all won the game together. Even though we've played these types of games before it is not easy for her! I would vouch to say far more difficult. She really wanted to save her money to save her own whale. And again, this is a child that has quite a bit of experience with these kinds of games. We also played it with friends who are very competitive and 'proud of it.' You want to watch the @#$% hit the fan- try this game! Full blown tantrums from 9 year olds about how it isn't 'fair' that they should use their money to save some whale that isn't even theirs! It's really intense. But oh, so valuable!!
The biggest misconception about working cooperatively is that 'everyone gets their way." It is quite the contrary. No one is 'getting their way.' Making each person's individual needs and desires equally important takes a lot of maturity, patience and willingness to compromise. It changes the way one thinks, which is never an 'easy' task. As the Rev recently said at a church service I attended, "We are shifting from a getting economy to a giving economy." The only thing that will 'save' this world is moving from a place of selfishly acquiring, which competitive games enforce (think Monopoly), to selflessly giving. It is indeed the thing our current prez is asking us all to do. We are discovering that in life, the one who has the most stuff at the end is not really the 'winner.' Those who die fulfilled are the winners, and that always includes connecting with and supporting others. Always.
And of course her last point being that it is not 'realistic.' My favorite of all! I offered my (rather long-winded) response to her as follows:
"I agree that a balance is what is desired. We do not only play cooperative games and shun all competitive games. However, I do think games that are entirely random like candyland and chutes and ladders do not serve anyone. Games like memory or card games that involve a certain level of skill are great. When a child loses there is incentive to want to do better next time. There is strategy involved and (gasp) thinking! With a random game it is simply dumb luck and I think dealing with the 'bad luck' that comes with a bad spin is not something that a preschool aged child benefits from 'dealing with.' Let them lose at tic tac toe so they can at least see where their error was in choosing where to place their X or O.
The idea is to have at least one cooperative game in the mix of games so kids have a concept of working together for a greater good rather than looking at other people as opponents all the time.
And I will respectfully disagree with you that working cooperatively 'just doesn't work' because this is 'real life.' Some of the most successful corporations are now incorporating a lot of cooperative tactics into their businesses. Have you seen the business deal that just went down with Danone and Muhammad Yunus- the Nobel Peace Prize winner? Check out what Grameen Bank is up to these days and tell me it's 'unrealistic.'
And working cooperatively is not 'getting your way.' It is finding what works for EVERYONE and making your 'opponent's' desires/wants/needs as important as your own.
I agree competition is what drives most of us in the west, but i don't think it needs to be that way. If you study other cultures you will see it does not drive all human beings, meaning it is a learned behavior, not innate. We can unlearn destructive behavior and replace it with something that works for everyone. Yes, it's an ideal, but one I certainly support and am working towards by the choices I make raising my own children. We are now reaping the benefits of a competitive model and all of the destruction that comes with it. There are other models. We just need to be open minded enough to choose them."
So, ya- HUGE fan of this game! I'll have this contest up for a week- ending Feb 14, love day. but here's what you have to do to enter. I always love finding out what works for other moms and that's where my best learning has come from, so tell me one thing that you do in your own home to promote cooperation or connection between family members. And please remember this lovely company next time you're needing to purchase a gift or looking for something to really add value to your family's life! Oh, and this particular game is for ages about 8 and up, but there are plenty in the preschool age as well.
ps- thanks for all the comments after my begging for them! haha. I really didn't mean for anyone to feel obligated to! I really do feel that getting an email of a personal story or someone telling me a post made them rethink something is far more valuable to me than 10 'how cute!' comments on a craft item. So, for all of you wanting to slink back into anonymity please feel free to do so! And thank you.