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Have a Seat, Friend by Mary Hayhoe

Chairs in music score

With this cooperative spin on musical chairs, the object of the game is that everybody wins

I work with 10 kindergartners from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. at the local YMCA and have had lots of fun devising new games for us to play. One game the children seemed to have played already was musical chairs. They knew about doing whatever it took to make sure they got their seat. One afternoon, I started them on a game of musical chairs and it began to bother me how some of the kids were being very aggressive. I also didn't like the elimination aspect of the game. If you're not a "pushy" person, you have to sit on the side and watch the other kids play. I felt something was very wrong with that picture, so I decided to stop the way we had been playing the game and talk to the kids about the difference between competition and cooperation


A chair to share. My students listened to me carefully, but how much sank in, I couldn't tell. Then I told them we were going to play cooperatively, and this time when the music stopped, the goal was that everyone had to find a seat.

The music started and the kids began walking. When the music stopped, however, everyone still raced for a seat. Jessica, who often had been eliminated first before, was left standing. I said to her, "Jessica, remember, everyone has to find a seat." She looked up at me with confusion in her big brown eyes, and then I saw it dawn on her. At the same time, I saw Justin, in the nearest chair, scoot over. Jessica went over and somewhat timidly joined Justin in his seat. Success!

Next, I had the kids all stand up. I took away another chair and began the music again. When it ended, someone else was left standing and I reminded him how the game was now played. He found a seat with a friend and we continued.

Reaching out. I noticed the kids were pushing their backs against each other to be able to stay on the chair. I added the instruction that when the music stopped, everyone had to be sitting down and no feet could be touching the floor. When everyone was seated the next time the music stopped, I needed to again remind them of the new rule. That's when I saw it – kids who had earlier been racing each other for limited chair space, who had been pushing against each other to maintain a seat, were now reaching out for each other, helping each other to succeed.

I once read that a hero is a person who makes his enemy his friend. If we would take a step back, remember the wondrous abundance this world holds, notice our brothers and sisters who are looking for their place and reach out and share what we have, we might all win. I hope this game is as big a success with your students as it was with mine.

Mary Hayhoe is at work on a book called WHOPPERTUNITIES: opportunities that be that which you are - LOVE.