learning to share

Learning to Share Can be Hard for Young Children

Just because you tell your child to share or “play nice” doesn’t mean they know how to do so . . . yet. But with time and help learning what it means to take turns, to play cooperatively, and to share, you just might hear a lot less of “mine, mine, mine” or “I had it first!” Also, keep in mind that most children do not develop this skill until they are between three and four years old.

First, teach your young child what it means to share. Toddlers may not warm up to it right away but by introducing them to sharing with you, it will help when it is time to share with others. For instance, if you have an apple, you can let your child have half the apple with you. Let her help cut it then show her how you give her one slice and you take one slice until all the slices are gone, and let her know that you are sharing.

Next, explain why you are sharing and how it is important. For example, “I really like it when grandma visits and I want to share my book with her because I know she will like this story.”

Here are some simple ways to help your children become better sharers:

  • Set the example: Be an avid sharer with family and friends.

  • Help your child use toys like balls, blocks, puzzles, jump ropes that make sharing easier and more fun.

  • Praise your child when they share on their own.

  • Thank your child for sharing. Yes, it’s praising but also a way to show your respect for their actions.

  • Teach your child how to use a visual or auditory cue for sharing, such as a sand timer or a song, that indicates that each child receives a turn for an allotted amount of time.

  • If children are having a hard time sharing, help them come up with other solutions and ask theirs, and their peers, for other options.

  • Don’t punish your child for not sharing. Just keep trying.

Is it ever okay not to share?

Sure, it is. If your child has some toys or books that are meaningful to her, let her know it is okay to put those toys away while friends are over but that she can’t play with them either until her friends leave.

Additionally, say your child is on the swing but not ready to give up her turn. She should not just jump off the swing immediately when another child is ready to swing. Instead, use this time as an example of modeling the behavior you want to see in your child. For example, say to the other child: “You are being so patient waiting for your turn on the swing. When Violet is through in a few minutes, I know you will have fun.” This allows your child to finish her turn and also places expectations for her to share.

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