Starting early when it comes to teaching a child about sharing and why it is important will set them up for life.
Sharing is an important skill for many aspects of life including making and retaining friends, having strong relationships, coping with disappointment, negotiating outcomes and being successful at work.
Sharing is also a learnt skill, but as every parent well knows, sharing doesn’t always come naturally or easily to young children. It can often be a source of conflict and distress. But rest assured, there are plenty of ways that you can introduce the concept to your little one and enable them to become confident and comfortable sharers.
Here’s what you can do.
10 Tried-and-tested tips for teaching children about sharing
- Set a good example. Children tend to imitate adult behaviour, so it’s beneficial for them to experience repeated examples of sharing in the home. Draw their attention to simple situations where sharing is involved (for example, ‘look I’m sharing my apple with dad as he is also hungry’ or ‘see how happy I am that mum is having a turn stirring the pot’). Remember, sharing will become easier with practice.
- Discuss the concept of sharing and how being compassionate and generous to others is good. However, sharing is not an easy concept for very young children to grasp, so you’ll need realistic expectations and plenty of patience and tolerance. Over time, and with lots of encouragement, praise and practice, they will learn to manage their emotions and that sharing doesn’t mean they’ll never see their favourite toy again or have their own turn!
- Expose your children to kind deeds. Talk to your young kids about how sharing helps other people enjoy life. For example, you could let them see you donate items to charity or drop off a book at a friend to read.
- Create opportunities to share and demonstrate taking turns. Play games with your little one where taking turns and sharing are part of the activity. Discuss when and how this will happen (eg ‘you can have a turn putting a block onto the tower, and then it will be my turn.’
- Give lots of positive reinforcement. When you’re playing with your child or when you’re observing them with others, give your child lots of attention and positive reinforcement when they take turns or share. ‘I’ words work well in these situations, eg ‘I like the way you shared your toy with Alfie’ and ‘I feel happy when you took turns kicking the ball’.
- Look for teachable moments. Point out when someone else has shared with another or taken turns and remind your child that kind acts make people feel good. Talking about feelings is a good way of helping your little one to understand their own emotions and to see things from another’s perspective.
- It’s OK for your child not to share everything. It’s a good idea to put away special toys if other children come to your home for a play date and you know they may not feel happy sharing them. This avoids conflict over those items and demonstrates to your child that you appreciate that those toys are precious to them and that you respect their attachment. It’s also a good idea to discuss which toys your child wants to share ahead of a playdate and discover the reasons behind your child’s reluctance to share.
- Make sharing fun. Do a puzzle with your child taking turns to place a piece or create an artwork on a single piece of paper using one set of crayons or a single paintbrush. Talk about how much fun it was sharing the activity together.
- Read stories about sharing. There are plenty of great books about the concept of sharing for young children, such as Mo Willems’s book ‘Should I Share My Ice Cream? (An Elephant and Piggie Book) and ‘Llama Llama Time to Share’ by Anna Dewdney.
- Don’t force your child to share. Rather than scold a child for not sharing or force them to share, rather remove the item from the situation. In that way, you are teaching both parties that if an item can’t be shared, no-one gets to have fun with it.
Sharing at different ages
The concepts of sharing and taking turns should be introduced from the very start. Even using gestures (alternating spoonfuls of food or passing a soft toy to and fro) are opportunities for babies to learn.
As your child gets older, they’ll get better about understanding the concepts, managing their emotions and realising that sharing doesn’t mean losing out on the fun. On the contrary. The more you model good sharing behaviour, kind and generous deeds and empathy and the more opportunities your child gets to practise sharing and taking turns, the more they’ll learn this vital skill and how it impacts positively on their lives.
A final word
Choosing a quality childcare or early learning centre which places high emphasis on enabling young children to develop vital skills such as sharing and empathy can make a substantial difference as to how they transition to ‘big’ school and progress through life.
Here at Evoke Early Learning, we embrace each child as powerful, capable and full of curiosity about their world. We value each child as a unique individual and at our safe, secure and welcoming Albert Park or Clayton Childcare Centres, our mission is to provide them with the foundation for the future skills and abilities they need to succeed.
We welcome you to book a tour of one of our centres and hope to see you soon.