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Is competition good for children?




Korean child in a karate poseAs part of our series of posts exploring a “question-centered” teaching approach, we asked Roberta Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, authors of A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool, to give us their thoughts on the above question, featured in the new course Q Skills for Success.

In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko says, “If you want a friend, get a dog”. No one is your friend when it comes to money; coming out on top financially is everything. This takes competition to new heights.

Is that what we want for our children? Or do we want our children to learn both competition and cooperation and when to use them?

As authors of various books on child development, Kathy and I firmly believe that both cooperation and competition are needed for success in a 21st century global economy.

Cooperation is needed because in our new, e-connected world, children need to learn how to communicate and collaborate. Playing together and group projects at home and in school can help. This is because children learn to take the perspective of the other and to honor others’ contributions.

Competition will be needed too, as this is the way of the world. Children have to learn that if they invented the better mousetrap, they will need to compete for their market share.

Competitive team sports can help children get over the disappointment of losing and encourage the creation of strategies to win another day.

We believe that both competition and cooperation are a part of life and both can be gently introduced to children.

Find out how you can use questions like “Is competition good for children?” in class.


Roberta Golinkoff holds the H. Rodney Sharp chair in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Delaware, USA. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek is Stanley and Deborah Lefkowitz Professor of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, USA. Both have written many books on child development including A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool: Presenting the Evidence (OUP).

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