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Children Working Together & Cooperative Play

Children Working Together & Cooperative Play

Two years ago, we moved into our townhouse in a brand new development. We were lucky enough to get an end-unit on a pie shaped lot with a sizeable backyard. Our yard shares its borders with five of our neighbours. That presented me with an interesting challenge when I decided I wanted to build a fence myself.

People want to be involved

When I went door to door to each of my neighbours and told them I wanted to build a fence, I expected some resistance and hesitation, which I got. What I didn’t expect was the project expanding and more than half of my neighbours wanting to take part in the work.

I learned that if you start a project that people care about, and invite them to be part of the process, most people are happy to join in. The same is true of kids. From building the tallest Lego tower ever, to putting on a goofy play for the family, kids love to get involved in creating something with their friends.

Next time your little ones are playing in a group, give them every opportunity to make something, all together.

Compromise—learning to let go

Not everyone is great at compromising. Some of us keep too tight a grip on the things we’ve convinced ourselves we need. We’re willing to blow up stuff we care about (like a new fence) just for the sake of a few inches. While planning, and during the last few hours of building, I was negotiating compromises to make everyone as happy as possible.

The key to compromising is to focus on what you lose if you can't agree. If everyone had been too stubborn and nobody had been willing to make a sacrifice or two, nobody would have had a fence this year. We’d be starting from square one again next year.

When you see your kids disagreeing on something, take them aside and help them focus on the bigger picture. Being flexible is a wonderful skill to have, and often one that doesn’t come naturally. Make sure you teach it to your kids.

Sweat and satisfaction

We built our fence over two days. The first day, everyone was out lending a hand and we got all the major work done. By the end of that day, there were just a few gaps here and there where boards needed cutting and fitting. We were tired, but we were happy.

Because we could see the fruit of our effort, and because we’d each contributed, having a fence was that much more satisfying for each of us. That’s a lesson we need to teach our kids, too. Satisfaction comes from having accomplished something difficult. If you can get them hooked on that feeling, there’ll be no stopping them, no matter what they decide to tackle.

I remember when we finally called it quits after 11 hours of work that first day. Every face wore a smile and there were handshakes and kind words all around. We hadn’t only built a fence that day; we’d built a community.

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