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Learning to Share

We all want to raise polite, well-mannered children who like to share their belongings with others. Unfortunately, sharing does not come naturally to children and it takes a bit of time to teach them to willingly share. It is up to our teachers and parents to work together to help children to understand what sharing is. When children are toddlers, they become very possessive of their items and feel that everything is their's and no one else's. They love to use the words "No" and "Mine". When you take a toy from your toddler in order to teach sharing, they don't realize that they will be getting the toy back again. They think you are simply taking it away and giving it to another child. It's no wonder that they object to this!

What you can do to help your child learn to share:

  • Encourage your child to share things that you have multiples of, such as blocks, crayons, or snacks. It can be far easier to share these types of items since there are many available, so there are some to share and some to keep. As your child learns to share in this manner, gradually encourage the sharing of single items.
  • Acknowledge that sometimes it's hard to share. Use empathy rather than scolding to encourage sharing.
  • It is okay to allow your child not to share. Children usually have a favorite doll or truck and it is okay to let them not share that, but you have to do it correctly. It is best to have your child put away their "special" toy before friends come over or to leave them at home when you are going over a friend's house to play.
  • When you see your child sharing, taking turns, or being kind to others, be sure to let them know that you are pleased. Take the time to notice their good behavior and encourage it by praising them when they are being kind and considerate. Children want to please you and are likely to repeat actions that earn them positive feedback.
  • Children do much of their learning from observing the behavior of the adults in their lives. Be sure that your children see you sharing your time and possessions with others, and they will be likely to follow your good example.

Toddlers cannot yet grasp the concept of sharing, but as they grow into preschoolers, they will better understand and will become more willing to share and take turns. Watch for these social developments in your child:

  • Three-year-olds begin experimenting with various sharing techniques, such as taking turns and trading toys for short periods of time.
  • Older three-year-olds begin to cooperate. They understand that giving doesn't mean giving up, and are more willing to give and take with friends.
  • Four-year-olds grasp the concept of sharing very well. They play cooperatively with their friends and are willing to share their possessions.

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