April 2024 Preschool leader article cooperation
Missions Discipleship

The 3 C’s of Working with Preschoolers, Part 2: Teaching Preschoolers to Cooperate

“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

—2 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)

The words cooperation and preschooler might seem like a complete contradiction.

As a Mission Friends leader, God has given you a divine opportunity to lay the groundwork for a future Christ follower who learns from the very beginning how deeply the Lord values unity of heart and purpose among His children.

The following four characteristics are critical pillars in the development of cooperation within and between preschoolers.

Choices Are Important

Preschoolers live in a controlled world. Although we understand the necessity for much of the control they experience, they can begin at an early age to understand the power and consequences of their own choices.

When we provide opportunities for preschoolers to safely choose, we are empowering their sense of value in choosing for themselves as well as affirming their ability to choose. Instead of telling Levi to work the puzzle, give him a choice between two activities. “Levi, would you rather work the puzzle or color the picture?”


    • Give choices that follow classroom rules and expectations.
    • Offer choices you can live with. Once a preschooler chooses, allow him to follow that choice.

Positive Reinforcement Creates an Environment for Cooperation

When preschoolers choose to cooperate with others, it is vitally important to reinforce their behavior by providing positive observations.

Be careful not to make comments about your expectations but keep your observations focused solely on the child. “Lydia, I noticed you gave one of your crayons to Lola. Thank you for sharing.”


    • If a problem arises, sit with preschoolers and discuss possible solutions.
    • Give positive reinforcement when preschoolers cooperate to find a solution, share, or take turns.

Routine Provides Security

Preschoolers learn trust through predictable routines. When parents leave their Mission Friend with you for class and return to pick them up, the preschooler is learning they can trust the routine.

As you plan your weekly sessions, keep in mind that preschoolers experience trust and security through a predictable routine. Security and trust lower the anxiety level for preschoolers providing an environment where cooperation can flourish. When they know from experience what “comes next,” they are better able to cooperate.


    • Be consistent with the schedule.
    • Help preschoolers learn the schedule by verbalizing it as you go about session activities.

Encourage Cooperation by Providing Transition Warnings

Preschoolers don’t respond well to surprises. It is important to give your Mission Friends a warning when transitions are coming. They often like to finish an activity before moving on to the next. Giving them the opportunity to prepare to transition to the next activity will make cooperation much easier.


    • Clearly share a warning that a transition is coming. “In five minutes, we will clean up for Group Time.”
    • Use the same timer or special song as a signal that it is time to transition to the next activity.

by Teri Ussery