At Crème, we see teamwork as a component in all areas of learning…

 …but when is it reasonable to expect children to work as a team member?
How is teamwork fostered? How can we tell if children are really grasping that concept?

 Teamwork is a social construct that involves cognitive development before it can really begin to manifest into children’s behavior. Cognition is a broad term describing how one comes to learn and know. It includes perception, strategizing, concept formation and problem-solving. Cognition forms with every mistake, every injury, every success, and every interaction with peers and adults, both positive and negative, throughout their lifetime, but particularly in the early years.

This is why it is so important to let children fail.

Without failure, children’s cognition is stagnated, leaving them confused and frustrated when they do not accomplish goals they set. Failure also equips children with acceptance, the understanding that others sometimes do not comply, or provide desired results. With practice and enough experience, the failure of others does not become a burden to self, expressed as aggression, isolation or tantrums. According to Piaget (1962), “environmental circumstances acting on the child compel him to change his conceptual understanding to fit new perceptions.” This, in effect, fosters cognitive growth with expanding ability to recognize and accept the efforts and failures of others.

By age 2, there is evidence of reasoning or insight, paving the way for new methods to solve unfamiliar problems, including how to work with others in a group setting. When our teachers present new content in any of our enrichment programs, children use their accumulated experiences to strategize, or accommodate, this information and figure out a plan of action, both independently and as a member of a group.

Example. A S.T.E.A.M. teacher asks children to construct a bridge with toothpicks and playdough. Kevin (age 3) remembers that toothpicks are pointy and he tells his friend, “be careful.” This simple gesture may be rooted in wanting to be successful building the bridge, but it also reflects a level of communication and cognition necessary to help his partner also be successful.

In the home setting, there are countless ways to foster teamwork. Allow children to help with small tasks whenever possible. Use team-building language, such as:

“Let’s do this….” “We can just…” “How do you think we should…?”
“If I do this, you do that…” “We make a good team!”

Tip: You might even make a mistake and outwardly express how what you did, didn’t work. Model that it is not the end of the world, and through teamwork you can come up with alternative solutions.

You will begin to recognize the sense of teamwork in your child through their language and physical actions. The type of language exemplified above are key indicators. Observing your child help another person with any task is an example of the concept of teamwork and cooperation setting in.

Sometimes it is hard to spot because we live our lives helping our children succeed, but it is important to put on a specific lens to observe your child’s development. Be purposeful and look for something specific, just like researchers do in studies. These purposeful lenses will help you to see your child objectively and know where they excel, and where they might need more guidance.

Dr. Masek
VP of Education


1962           PIAGET J. The stages of the intellectual development of the child. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. 26: 120-8.