Get up, grab your children and your neighbors, and get moving. Coordinate a Friendship Field Day! Cooperative games teach children collaboration, responsibility, and communication, and instill confidence and trust. Best of all, everyone wins and has fun.
The most important part of the event will be the conversations you have following each game. Take a couple of minutes and have the children think about and verbalize what happened. How did they cooperate with one another? In what ways did they communicate? What was their role in the game? How did it make them feel? Did they rely on others? Using these and similar questions will get the children thinking about how everyone benefits when people work together.
Use the following ideas as a guide; the fun you can have is limited only by your imagination and creativity.
What you need:
- A large backyard or multiple yards (to make it a neighborhood event)
- Several event leaders
- Time: 2-3 hours
- For a small group of four to six children, consider having them participate as a single team. For more than six children, you might want to group them into teams that rotate from location to location.
- Remember to provide plenty of water or juice at each location.
- Allow a few minutes between each event for the children to take a short break.
- If you're moving from home to home, plan for a few minutes to get the children organized and rotated.
Have each leader select one activity or more to coordinate. The number of children, leaders, and locations available to you will dictate the specifics of how you set up your event.
An Opening Ceremony: What Is the Friendship Field Day?
Kick off the day by explaining that the Friendship Field Day is all about cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork. Point out that cooperation means “working together.” Offer a few examples. Then have the children each take a turn giving examples of times they cooperated or helped someone in need. Also talk about the words we use to encourage someone.
Remind the children that there are no losers in the day's games; if everyone works as a team, everyone wins. As an incentive, you may wish to award points for each time the children cooperate and use words of encouragement.
The Great Basketball Pass
Materials: basketball (or similar ball)
Time: 5 minutes
Directions: Have children lie in a circle, feet together. Give them a ball and explain that they must pass the ball all the way around the circle without letting the ball touch the ground. Explain that there is one catch: They may use only their feet and legs. Tell them that they will master this game if they communicate clearly and work as a team.
When they have finished, ask them to describe what they did. What allowed them to be successful? What words of encouragement did they use?
Materials: scarves or cloth strips
Time: 10 minutes
Directions: Have the children form a line, one child in front of the other. Mark a finish line about 30 feet away. Tie each child's right leg to the right leg of the child standing behind him or her. Do the same to each child's left leg. When everyone's legs are tied, challenge the children to race to the finish line. They will quickly realize that they cannot move as they normally would. Remind them that teamwork is the key here.
When everyone has reached the finish line, talk about what happened. What did they have to do to be able to walk? How did they depend on the others?
Steer This Ship in the Right Direction
Materials: an open area, free of any obstacles; orange cones
Time: 5 minutes
Directions: Pair each child with a partner. Have one partner—the Ship—close his or her eyes. The other partner—the Captain—stands behind the Ship and puts his or her hands on the Ship's shoulders. The Captain is in charge of steering the Ship. The Captain must take good care of his or her ship, steering it in the right direction and making sure it doesn't crash. You might set up orange cones for the Captain to steer the Ship around. Tell the children that they must move slowly and speak clearly while they are steering the Ship. After a minute or two, have the children switch roles.
When all the children have had a turn, ask them what they had to do to be successful Captains. What did they do to be good Ships? Which role did they prefer? Why? What did they learn?
Materials: sticks, yarn, cardboard, cardstock, tape, markers (be as creative as you wish); a small pond, stream, or kiddie pool
Time: 15 minutes
Directions: Assign each child a role in building a boat. The roles can be any responsibility for which there is a need: construction supervisor, boat designer, flag maker, boat launcher, wave maker, and so on. Encourage the group to create a plan and then work together to construct the boat. To really get the energy and excitement up, impose a time limit. When the boat is finished, launch it with much fanfare and be sure to cheer it on—regardless of its buoyancy!
Talk with the group. How did each person contribute? Why were each person's talents needed?
Teamwork Treasure Hunt
Materials: enough matching items for the whole group so that each team of two children will have one of each item on the list (coins, colored construction paper, plastic spoons, lengths of yarn, and so on)
Time: 20 minutes
Directions: Hide the treasure items in advance. Pair each child with a partner. Distribute a list of all the items. Explain to the teams that in order to win the treasure hunt, they must find a complete set of each item listed. (For example, each team must return with a spoon, a quarter, and so on.)
When they have found all the items, ask them how teamwork enabled them to succeed. Did anyone help someone find an item? What happened?
Don't Fall in the Quicksand!
Materials: squares of material large enough for a child to stand on (carpet squares, construction paper, or old towels); a start line and finish line, about 50 feet apart
Time: 10 minutes
Directions: Have the children stand in a close group at the start line, each standing on one square. Tell them that the goal is to make it to the finish line. Explain that there's a special challenge, however: The ground is quicksand, and if one person touches it, they all must start over. Encourage the children to brainstorm what they might do to get to the finish line without falling into the quicksand. After a few moments, hand them one extra piece of material. Explain that if they work together with that extra piece, everyone will be able to make it across.
When everyone has crossed the finish line, have the group explain how they accomplished their goal. What kinds of things did they do? What kinds of things did they say to one another?
That's What I Like About You
Materials: multiple strips of paper, each with a child's name; paper lunch bags; a balloon
Time: 20 minutes
Directions: In advance, write the children's names on paper strips, enough for each child in the group to have one set of names. Distribute a set of paper strips to each child. Invite the children to look at the person named on each strip and write a positive comment about him or her, or reason they admire that person. Encourage them to be specific. (For example: “Michael showed a lot of courage during the race,” or “Kate always plays with me at recess.”) When all the children have finished writing, collect the strips, and place them in paper bags for each child. Save the bags for the closing ceremony.
Then have the children stand in a group. Toss a balloon into the air and explain that the objective is to keep the balloon in the air. The children have to follow a special rule, however. Before they can touch the balloon, they must first shout out something positive about someone in the group.
The Magic Chair
Time: 5 minutes
Directions: Have the children form a circle. Ask them to slowly turn to the right, so that everyone is looking at someone's back. Now have them form the circle even more tightly and grab the waist of the person in front of them. Explain that they will do something together that would be impossible to do alone: Each will have a “magic” chair to sit on. Tell the children that at the count of three, everyone will very slowly sit in the lap of the person behind him or her. This may take a few tries, so encourage the children to work slowly and communicate with one another.
Take a few moments to talk about how the game worked. What did they have to do? What did their neighbor have to do? How was trust involved?
Untie the Human Knot
Time: 10 minutes
Directions: Have the children stand in a close circle. Tell them to put their right hands in the center and grab the hand of another child. Have them repeat with their left hands, being sure that they grab the hand of someone different. Then tell the children to undo the human knot they have created but they can't let go of the hands they are holding.
As the children work, be sure to offer encouragement and ideas as needed.
T-Shirts Through Teamwork
Materials: inexpensive children's white T-shirts; permanent paints and markers made for clothing
Time: 20 minutes
Directions: Spread out T-shirts on a table. Ask the children to add one happy design or friendly message to every shirt. (You may also wish to provide them with stencils or stamps.) Encourage the children to make the shirts fun and colorful symbols of friendship.
Donate the finished T-shirts to a local children's hospital, or let each child take a shirt home to give to someone as a sign of friendship.
End with A Peace Pole Celebration
Materials: a four-sided piece of lumber, six to eight feet long; weatherproof paint; tools to plant the Peace Pole; an area to plant it
Time: 30-40 minutes
Directions: A Peace Pole is a symbol promoting peace on earth. Peace Poles display the phrase “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in a different language on each side. Over 200,000 have been planted throughout the world, including places such as the North Pole and at the pyramids in Egypt.
In advance, select four languages in which to write the phrase “May Peace Prevail on Earth” and paint one phrase along each side. (If you have children in your group who speak other languages, you may wish to use those languages.) Invite the children to take turns decorating the Peace Pole with their names or symbols of peace. When finished, dig a hole and plant the Peace Pole; you might plant it in a yard, a garden, or any place where it can be enjoyed by all.
Gather around the Peace Pole and discuss its significance with the children. What does the word peace mean to them? What are some examples of peace? What could they tell others about the Peace Pole?
Every good celebration involves food. To keep with the day's theme, you can demonstrate to the children that by helping, sharing, and working together, everyone benefits. Ask the children to contribute to each snack you serve. They could bring their favorite fruit to contribute to a fruit salad; vegetables to add to a Stone Soup; juice to help make a fruit punch; and cereals, raisins, and pretzels for a trail mix. (Be sure to check for food allergies in advance.)
To close the day, present each child with his or her Bag of Good Messages (from “That's What I Like About You”). Have a leader call each child up individually, select one message from the child's bag, and read it aloud. (Be sure that you have checked the messages for appropriateness.) Make it a public declaration of that person's goodness and friendship, and do it with lots of fanfare. For example, you might say “Congratulations, Kyle. Someone thinks you're great because you always share your toys with him!” Put the message back in the bag, present the bag, and shake the child's hand. The leaders can contribute their own messages for each child too.