Learning Challenges

YouTube and the Art of Cooperation: Practicing Collaboration with Videos

Talking about tricky social skills like cooperation, patience, and persistence is one thing. Showing your child what it looks, sounds, and feels like is quite another. Here, find a library of YouTube videos that demonstrate important skills that are often difficult to articulate for kids with ADHD.

a child watches a video to learn cooperation skills

Your child is bossy — it’s his way or no way, no how. Or maybe she is easily frustrated, throwing down and storming off when others don’t like or appreciate her ideas. Or perhaps he just hates working in groups and playing on teams because, you know, people are scary. Many of our kids’ trickiest social challenges trace back to one core skill: cooperation.

Cooperation is complicated because it requires social awareness, patience, and problem-solving skills. It’s also tough to teach at home after a long, challenging day at school. That is where YouTube comes in. Showing your child short videos about cooperation and using them to initiate conversations about collaboration can help develop skills including:

  • Resilience: Sticking with a group project
  • Listening and working with the group
  • Clarity: Expressing ideas again when other people don’t understand them
  • Managing and keeping track of strong feelings
  • Flexibility: Overcoming the anxiety that accompanies sharing a job

Why YouTube? It allows you to freeze an expression and remark on what a particular character might be thinking. You can stop periodically to see how your child codes each feeling. Do they understand it? In videos with multiple characters, can he differentiate their perspectives? Or watch a video straight through, then bring it to life by contextualizing a real-life experience with something you saw together on YouTube.

[Quiz: Can You Distinguish Between ADHD and Learning Disabilities?]

Below are two of my favorite videos — YouTube selections that allow parents to broach otherwise difficult topics and conversations.

For Discussing Complex Emotions: “Catch It” by ESMA

Videos without dialogue help children focus on the non-verbal information — facial expressions and gestures — that they might be missing in real world. “Catch It” by ESMA is a great example of nuanced nonverbal storytelling. It follows a group of meerkats through their righteous indignation as a vulture flies off with the tasty fruit they want for themselves. The meerkats work together to retrieve the fruit, but not every tale has a happy ending.

“Catch It” offers the chance to talk about working together. There’s one little meerkat who holds back initially, but demonstrates flexibility by ultimately going along with the group. After watching it, brainstorm reasons for not wanting to go along with a plan and help your child articulate how they feel about cooperation, even as they pause to think about others.

This video also allows kids the opportunity to expand their ‘feeling’ vocabulary, because it’s very difficult to get through life only knowing sad, mad, and happy. The meerkats felt sad, and they felt frustrated, and then they felt determined. They felt happy and successful, and then they felt disappointed. Many children shy away from uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, anger, and sadness. We want to build their ability to stay with that discomfort, to tolerate feeling a little bit of these things because doing so pulls them forward in their ability to cooperate.

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For Discussing Selflessness: “Neighbors Helping Neighbors After the Storm” by The Washington Times

Another video that touches on uncomfortable feelings is “Neighbors Helping Neighbors After the Storm,” which shows a neighborhood in which a tree has fallen on a car. The people in the community come together to remove the tree while talking about the storm.

When I show this to children, we talk about how sometimes cooperation is inconvenient, which can lead to wonderful discussions about what it means to help others and to be kind — how we might stick with a collaborative task even after initially feeling resentment. This video opens up great conversations about what it means to cooperate, whether in a classroom or at home.

When I work with children, I write down what we brainstorm. I encourage families to do the same, then summarize your greatest ideas. These notes become important reminders for our kids about the strategies they can use in various scenarios. If your child has already thought about what feelings he might experience and what actions he might take, that means he has a powerful preview of how to cooperate when the time comes.

To capture these insights, take a picture on your phone or create a Note that you can refer back to in challenging moments. These also allow you to stop and evaluate what we’re doing, and make adjustments to get back on track toward our goal.

Following are more videos that I use to jumpstart conversations about cooperation. As with all videos, please watch them without your child first, in order to ensure that they are a good fit.

Street Garden Cooperation” by Sesame Street
If you have young children, this catchy tune may come to the rescue in those difficult moments when no one is getting on board with the plan! Older students with fond memories of Sesame Street’s wonderful characters may also enjoy it.

Bridge” by Ting Chian Tey
Crossing narrow bridges can be challenging, especially if you are a rotund moose or bear. Use this video to illustrate how inflexibility can bring on strong feelings. Ask your child to make a prediction about the somewhat unexpected ending!

Soar” by Alyce Tzue
This terrific story is marvelously drawn and presents important themes of separation, discouragement, and perseverance. This video delivers a great example of cooperation in the face of adversity.

A Cloudy Lesson” by Yezi Xue
In under two minutes, this gentle and slowly paced story about a young child and older adult blowing clouds and solving problems together delivers an especially terrific lesson for young children.

Leading Bikers Helping Each Other in the Mud” by BRESLAU Rally
Another real-life example of messy cooperation. Enough said.

The Power of Teamwork” by Funny Animation
This video presents three terrific examples of how cooperation pays off — all in a commercial for taking the bus, which just goes to show that you never know where you will find a terrific video!

Egghunt” by Justanimate
This three-and-a-half-minute video humorously suggests that even cavemen struggled with relationships and understanding motive. Watch as one caveman fails repeatedly, only to feel like another caveman is trying to steal his coveted eggs. But is he?

Mariza, the Stubborn Donkey” by Constantine Krystallis
This was one of the very first YouTube videos I discovered. After some bumps in the road, a Greek fisherman and his donkey realize that finding a way to work together is the best way to get a job done.

[16 More YouTube Videos That Teach Social Skills]

This advice came from “Improve Your Child’s Social Smarts with YouTube, Video & Board Games/em>,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Anna Vagin, Ph.D. in August 2018 that is now available for free replay.

Anna Vagin, Ph.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.