Some children easily grasp the concept of “sharing,” whether that be sharing time, people, or possessions. Others may struggle. As children grow, they begin to take ownership of themselves and the world around them. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time with a toddler knows that one of their favorite words is “mine.” But the ability to share is essential for every child to learn, even if the concept is initially difficult for them to grasp. There are several easy ways to help teach children how to share.

Exemplify Your Own Teachable Moments

If your child is initially resistant to the idea of learning how to share, then you can teach them the concept through example. A child’s idea of how the world works is based on their experiences at home. It’s the old “monkey see, monkey do” adage. If they see you sharing, they’ll better understand the concept.

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Turn parts of daily life into teachable moments and explain them to your child. “Mommy is sharing her car with daddy.” “Daddy is sharing his book with Uncle John.” Let them know that sharing happens often, and it’s okay, even desirable. Tell them how it makes you feel.  “When your daddy shares his dinner with me, it makes me happy.”  

Create Designed Sharing Opportunities

Take advantage of any holidays or special events to promote special sharing opportunities. If there’s a play date at your house, you can give your child a tray of snacks and ask them to make sure everyone gets a snack. During the evening when everyone is home, ask your child to pick out some toys to share with the family.

Always be sure to reinforce good behavior, and try to get your child to connect emotion with sharing. Ask them questions about it. “How does it make you feel when Timmy won’t share with you?” “How do you think Julie felt when you shared your cookie with her?”

Explain How to Share, Don’t Demand

Sometimes, things go south rather quickly when one child won’t share. Rather than losing your temper, or demanding that your child share, try to calmly explain the concept. Tell them why sharing is important, as opposed to demanding that they give up their toy with no explanation. This can help a child understand how to share and why it’s important.

For example, if your daughter doesn’t want to share her toy with her sister, try and explain it to her. Tell her how happy it would make her sister to be able to play with the toy for a little bit.

Know When to Step In

An important part of teaching children how to share is knowing when to intervene in the process. Kids tend to learn more about how to solve a problem if there is no adult intervention. If you see two children arguing over who gets to use a toy, gauge the climate before stepping in to solve the problem. If it seems as though they may work it out on their own, then keep your distance and let it happen naturally. Ultimately, they will learn more from working through the problem themselves.

However, if the situation appears to be rapidly deteriorating, you may want to interrupt and play the part of mediator to the negotiations. Again, try and help them come to an agreeable conclusion rather than solving the problem for them. Ask questions, and provide guidance. “Ask him how long he will be playing with the toy, and then wait until he is finished.” “Is there something you would like to share with her so that you can play with her toy?”

Use a Timer

Timed sharing is a very helpful technique. It helps children understand that they are not giving up their possession permanently, and it can be a “fair” resolution to any disputes. If two children are fighting over a toy, they can each have a turn for the same length of time. If one of them is unwilling to give up the toy once it’s in their possession, repeat the timed sharing process until they give it up willingly. This will reinforce that their time without the toy is not permanent, and if they’re patient they will be rewarded.

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If the children are absolutely unwilling to share the toy for any length of time, then the timed sharing turns into a time-out. Take the toy away and explain that they cannot have it back until they are willing to share.

Respect Your Child’s Prized Possessions

It’s not uncommon for young children to display selective sharing. Possessions are a child’s form of currency. They are valuable and have taken some time to accrue. Just as we adults may prize our newest edition cell phone over some of our other possessions, many children have some favorite toys that they prize more than other ones. These are the toys they may be unwilling to share with their friends or siblings, and that’s okay. You don’t have to force them to part ways with these special toys. In fact, doing so may cause more anxiety than if it were a regular toy.

Your child may be more receptive to the concept of sharing in general if they are not forced to part ways with their most prized possessions. It’s a goal you can work towards, but not an advisable place to start if you’re still teaching the concept. It’s never too early for children to learn something new. These tips and tricks should help your child understand how to share and why it’s important.

Home Away From Home Academy believes that every child has an instinctive need to learn from birth. We strive to provide a mentally, physically, and emotionally stimulating atmosphere to help children strive to reach their greatest intellectual potential. Learn more about programs at one of the top private preschool in Monmouth County, or contact us today with any questions.