Turn taking doesn’t come naturally, making teaching toddlers to share one of life’s most challenging tasks! Toys and other found objects are instantly thought of as belonging solely to the toddler, and should someone else show interest in playing with them, expect a reaction. From snatching it back, through to hitting, biting and crying, the social skill of sharing isn’t a concept that is understood.
Yet as parents and caregivers, it is our job to step forward and teach our toddlers to share with others. Like with most learning, this is best achieved through play, the universal language of childhood.
Using Play to Teach Toddlers to Share
Learning to share takes lots of practice and plenty of patience. From around three years old, a toddler being to develop a basic awareness and understanding of equality and empathy. It is these two concepts that a child must internalise to be sharing of their own accord. Here’s where play is used best:
- Highlight examples of sharing – it is important to point out examples of sharing when you come across them. This could be when reading a book or watching TV where a character shares with other, or in daily activities such as by observing what other children do when playing.
- Empathise and compromise – it is emotionally hard to share a special belonging with another child. Talk with your toddler about how they are feeling, affirming that they are upset and that it is hard to share. Offer a sharing plan, such as playing with the toy for a few minutes and then passing it to someone else to play with. This works well when helping children build friendships, explaining that inviting another child to share a toy is a great way to be a good friend.
- Talk about ownership – this strategy works well at a playground or childcare centre. Talk about a favourite piece of equipment such as the swings, and how lots of children like to use them. Discuss how they would be upset if they could not play on the swings if other children would not share with them, and that taking turns is one characteristic of being a good friend.
- Model good sharing behaviour – as adults, our actions are constantly observed by children. Ensure you demonstrate how to share with others, talking out loud about what you are doing at the same time.
- Use a timer – a visual timer is a great way of having something tangible to look at to know when it is time to switch turns in using something. It also takes the pressure off the adult and child, by having the timer take the responsibility of informing when it is time to share.
- Practice taking turns – turn sharing into a game by practicing taking turns with your toddler, passing an object between you such as a ball or picking up puzzle pieces.
- Give lots of praise – no matter how small their effort, praise your toddler for sharing with others. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in motivating a child when teaching a skill and having the desire to repeat it again in the future.
Everyday is a great day to play with your toddler and develop their sharing skills. Through repetition and having patience, you can be certain they will become an expert in sharing!