Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Toddler

Teaching Children How to Share

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It is not in a small child’s nature to share and they think the world revolves only around them (Quoted from Dr Ian Wallace – Child Psychologist, December 2014).  They care only about themselves and not about other children’s wants and needs. 

At this age children tend to play alongside other children, but not with them.  Children at this age also form strong attachments to mom and their toys.  These attachments are normal and very important, to be an emotionally strong person one day.  As children begin to play and form social bonds with other children and cooperate in their play, they begin to see the value of sharing.

A good way to teach children any principles or values is through play.  They are more likely to remember what they have learned through play than what they hear in your lectures every day. (Quoted from Dr Bill Sears – Trusted resource for parents)

Play “sharing games” with your children.  Give your toddlers sweets, cookies or toys and then ask them to share these with everyone in the room.  You want them to learn that sharing is a normal way of life and that it spreads joy and happiness.  When a squabble begins, it may be best not to interfere immediately but to observe and see how this pans out.  If the situation deteriorates, intervene.  There is more value in them solving their own conflict situations that you solving it for them.

A good opportunity to encourage and teach sharing is when friends come to visit.  It is very natural for a toddler not to want to share their toys when they have friends visiting.  Ask the parents of the friend to bring some toys with.  Have a “sharing basket” on the floor where they are playing.  Ask your toddler to choose toys he would like to play with, while his friend is visiting and then put these on the “sharing basket”.  The little friend will do the same.  All children get very excited when there are new toys to play with.  Teach your toddler that in order to play with the little friends exciting toys, he has to let his friend play with one of his toys.  This teaches a toddler that sharing and taking turns is fair play and that everyone has fun when they share.  Keep praising your toddler when he shares.

Allocating time for each child to play with the same toy is a good way to encourage your toddler to share.  Tell them they will each have two minutes to play with the toy.  They might argue about who goes first.  Give them a number dice.  The one who rolls the highest number will go first.   When you say “time up”, the toy is given to the other child.  Reassure them that they will have another turn to play with the toy.  If they are still not willing to share, take the toy away and they can only play with it again when they have learnt how to share.  They will soon learn that it is better to share than to forfeit the toy completely. 

Lead by example.  Children copy or mimic everything their parents do.  When someone wants to borrow something from you, make this a teachable moment, e.g.:  “Mommy is sharing her scissors with Granny” or “I am sharing my popcorn with Daddy and because I shared my popcorn with him, he is now sharing his chocolate with me”.  

Keep praising your toddler when he shares as this will make him feel secure within himself when he has your approval.

Written By: Lynn van Jaarsveld (Principal of Trinityhouse Pre-Primary Little Falls)  

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