The Three Cs: Communication, Cooperation, Collaboration … Social Skills Needed for Success in School and Life

AAUW Preschool in Waukegan is a LLC Premiere Partner. This post is part of its partnership with Little Lake County. Written  by AAUW Preschool Director Ann Adkins; all opinions belong to AAUW.   

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In the past, schools focused on the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic. Recent research, however, shows what educators have known all along — the focus needs to be placed on the three Cs – communication, cooperation and collaboration. Pennsylvania State University and Duke completed a study and found that children who scored high on social skills were four times as likely to graduate from college and have stable or full- time employment as adults than those who scored low (The New York Times).

If children can

  •  communicate – express their needs and feelings appropriately and listen and respond to others
  • cooperate – get along with others in a group
  • collaborate – work together on a goal

they are more likely to succeed in academics and future jobs.

AAUW Preschool Waukegan
Photo credit: AAUW Preschool

How can we, the adults in young children’s lives, help children learn to communicate appropriately?

Talking with children on a regular and continuing basis has the biggest affect on their language development. Parents are busier than ever, but having conversations with children through daily routines and taking time to interact one-on-one regularly is imperative.

“Previous studies have shown, for example, that babies learn faster and better from a native speaker of a language when they are interacting with that speaker instead of watching the same speaker talk on a video screen. Even watching a live person speak to you via television is not the same thing as having that person in front of  you,” said Dr. Dimitri Christakis at the University of Washington. In fact, studies have shown that too much screen time has a negative impact on language development in young children (Time).

Listening to your child when he does communicate shows him his ideas and feelings are important and demonstrates the reciprocal exchange of communication. Expressing our feelings and modeling appropriate reactions to stressful situations helps children identify and express their emotions appropriately, as well. Spending time in unstructured play, laughing and having fun, is essential to building social-emotional skills.

AAWU Preschool
Photo Credit AAUW Preschool

How do we help children learn to cooperate?

Parents, caregivers and teachers need to model positive interactions and relationships. Children watch us more than we realize they do. We need to be mindful of our interactions with others, how we handle frustration and how much  screen time we use rather than interacting with each other.

Children need opportunities to play among peers either at the local park, in play groups or at a high-quality preschool. Through this play, children learn to feel competent and confident and learn trust and respect for others. They have opportunities to share space and materials, to take turns, and to follow rules. These skills enable a child to cooperate, especially when they are in a safe and trusting environment, whether it’s at home or school.

AAUW Preschool
Photo Credit AAUW Preschool

How can we help children learn to collaborate?

Collaboration – working together in a group on a common goal – is a part of living and working in today’s world. This can be within a family (making dinner), among peers in play (inventing a game) or in a school setting (building a science project) or in the workforce (improving office efficiency). For children, this is choosing a game, setting and following the rules, and defining each participant’s role. For example, children playing together building a sand castle may plan what to build, decide how to build it and what tools to use, agree about who will carry the water and who will mold the sand and then choose whether to leave it or knock it down.

Communication and cooperation skills are necessary for collaboration. Children need to learn to identify and respond to their own and others’ feelings, behave appropriately for the situation and use language to solve problems and resolve conflicts. Children need many opportunities to play to develop these skills.

AAUW Preschool
Photo Credit AAUW Preschool

Other activities to help children develop the three Cs:

  • Read stories to them – Stories, particularly social stories, lend themselves to discussions of feelings, appropriate interactions, and solving problems.
  • Allow and encourage unstructured play – “There is a kind of problem solving that happens in play that is unpredictable. Play supports learning in ways that structured tasks cannot.” (US News)
  • Play board games – Playing games entails following rules, taking turns, learning to wait, learning to handle frustration, learning to lose – and win –with appropriate responses.
  • Join play groups or a high-quality preschool program – Play groups allow children opportunities to build social skills when playing with peers. High-quality preschool programs focus on social-emotional development.
  • Let children take reasonable risks – Allowing children opportunities to assess and learn from challenges helps them develop competence to solvetheir own problems.

AAUW Preschool

About AAUW Preschool

Originally named AAUW Nursery School, AAUW Preschool was founded in 1953 by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). AAUW Preschool programs have been time-tested over 60 years and have also consistently exceeded the national standards for quality in early childhood education. The school is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the gold standard of high-quality early childhood education and an honor awarded to fewer than ten percent of early childhood programs nation-wide. AAUW Preschool serves students from northern Lake County, Illinois—including Waukegan, Gurnee, Great Lakes, Wadsworth, Beach Park and Zion, as well as southern Wisconsin. We offer a variety of half-day programs for three, four and five-year olds and weekly parent-child classes for toddlers.

Connect with AAUW Preschool
2500 N. Northern Ave., Waukegan | 847-623-0550
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The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2015 from

Time. Retrieved July 30, 2015 from,8599,1650352,00.html.

US News. Retrieved July 30, 2015 from


Find more information about AAUW Preschool as well as other area preschools in our Little Lake County Guide to Lake County Preschools. 


Disclosure: Partnerships and event listings are not an endorsement of a particular school or curriculum but are provided to give the community more in depth information about options available.


About Melissa Haak 661 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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