A Short History of Cooperative Games

Are Cooperative Games a recent innovation? Or is there a history behind this concept? Here is a capsule history.

The cooperative games movement in North America—the conscious attempt to use inclusive games that are based on cooperation rather than competition in order to have fun and promote healthy relationships and community—dates back to the 1960’s and 70’s. Early pioneers of the movement include Terry Orlick (Canadian professor of kinesiology, cooperative games inventor and researcher, Olympic coach, and personal performance expert); Jim Deacove (owner of Family Pastimes games company and pioneering designer of cooperative board games); Stewart Brand (author of The Whole Earth Catalog and Vietnam war veteran who invented New Games to provide games that emphasized playfulness and joy rather than winning); Dale LeFevre (author of several New Games books and inventor of and globe-trotting teacher of cooperative games), Pat Farrington who was connected to the New Games movement but added the insight that trust and cooperation could be built into games so that her games were “not so much a way to compare our abilities but to celebrate them”, and Ken Kolsbun (previous owner of Animal Town Games, the first manufacturer of cooperative games in the United States and designer of the classic board game Save the Whales). Thanks to these fun-loving social innovators and other contributors too, resources for playing cooperatively has grown over decades. Cooperative games of all sorts (circle games, board games, PE games, ice breakers, educational games, etc.) caught on and spread organically to schools, classes, schools, camps, churches, and other settings around the world syncing up in Europe with a long-standing tradition of “friend games.” Still, cooperative games have remained relatively unadvertised and have not been promoted at a mass scale. This is a mixed blessing, but is perhaps a positive for the integrity of the field. They’re a bottom-up rather than a top-down “movement”, evolving as more and more people creatively adapt the idea to their own uses.  Join us!

This little bit of history comes from Come visit us to learn more about cooperative games, pick up some free games, and shop for games for home, schools, and other organizational settings.

Take Care!

Suzanne Lyons (a mom, teacher, & founder of

Natural Easter Egg Dyeing with a Cooperative Flair

NaturallyDyedEggsST3 (1)Here is a cooperative play idea for the upcoming Easter holiday. You can make beautiful naturally dyed Easter eggs like the ones shown here using natural plant-based dyes. This works great. I did it last year and will do it again today. I got this method from the National Cooperative Grower’s Association (NCGA) website (­, my go-to information source for everything related to food co-ops. Directions:

  1. The first step is to hard-boil your eggs. You’ll want to use white eggs. Use a stainless steel or glass pot. The water level should be a couple inches above the eggs. Let the eggs boil then simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and let them dry.
  2. Refer to the chart below to decide which dye colors you will be using. Then make make your dyes.
  3. If you are doing this project with kids, I strongly recommend covering your work surface with newspaper and providing aprons for everyone.
  4. Dip your eggs into the dyes. Let sit until the desired shade is reached. Remove them and let them dry.
  5. Decorating Tips: You can wrap string around eggs before dyeing to make stripes. You can draw designs on the cooled eggs before you dip them too.
  6. The Cooperative Flair: Make egg dying a cooperative game activity by letting multiple people contribute to decorating the same egg. Remember Mr. Potato Head? Make Mr. Egg Head!  Everyone draws different features on the same egg with crayon before dying. With a little flour-water paste, stick some Easter Grass or shredded paper on Mr. Egg Head to make wacky hair. Make a full family of Egg-Heads too—Mr. and Mrs. and all the Egg Head children. Enjoy!

Easter Egg dye chart


Cooperative Storytelling

Combine story telling with collaboration in this cooperative game.  Great as a party game and easily adaptable to school classes, especially language arts.

Cooperative Storytelling

Materials: None needed

Time Estimate: 15 minutessun and kids

Number of Players: 5 or more

Object of the Game: To tell a progressive story

Skills: Cooperation, Memory, Creativity, Speaking, Listening


To Play:

This is a well-known cooperative game suitable for all ages. Children sit in a circle and build  a story together. One child starts the story, his neighbor provides the next installment, and so on. The story is over when every child in the circle has had a chance to contribute. It’s helpful to brainstorm with the kids what the story will be about before you start. For example, you could make a story about Halloween, or a fictional character who takes a trip to the Moon, or a puppy that is born with purple fur, etc.



For older children, you can play “Fortunately, Unfortunately” in which one story teller describes a positive story development then the next player describes a negative development. For example, Player One starts a story about a kitten named Bilbo. She says: “Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and Bilbo was playing in the garden.” The next player continues with: “Unfortunately it began to rain and Bilbo got wet.” Player 3: “Fortunately, Bilbo found a watering can to hide in.” Player 4: “Unfortunately there was water in the watering can and Bilbo got even more wet!” etc. This is a fun game that carries the message that life has its ups and downs but it all seems to work out in the end.