Teaching Children to Share and Take Turns
Helping young children learn to share and take turns is essential for building positive social interactions and empathy. These skills are crucial for growing healthy relationships and managing conflicts, which is why it's so important to encourage sharing and turn-taking in their daily routines.
Of course, as anyone who has spent time with toddlers and young children knows, it can sometimes be challenging. But with patience and guidance, we can help them develop these vital life skills.
For young children, sharing and taking turns can be quite a challenge. This is mainly because, at this age, they are still learning social and emotional skills, communicating effectively with others and developing their sense of independence.
They may also struggle with regulating their emotions and impulses, leading to frustration or even tantrums when asked to share or take turns. Their world revolves around meeting their immediate needs and desires, and they cannot consider others' views or have a sense of fairness.
Sharing and taking turns require delayed gratification, a difficult concept for young children to grasp. Their language skills are also still developing, making communicating their needs and frustrations challenging.
Additionally, young children are very attached to their possessions and find it difficult to understand why they should let others play with their toys.
To support your little one to share and take turns from a young age, here are some tips to help you:
Use simple language and concepts
Your toddler is still developing their language skills; therefore, using simple concepts and words will support their understanding. The word "sharing" can be difficult for young children to grasp, so swap it with the term "take turns" instead.
Taking turns can be used in everyday situations and is easier to understand. You can teach them to take turns on the slide or blowing the bubbles before they can appreciate sharing or playing together.
In addition, encouraging turn-taking will also help them to learn to wait, helping them to manage their feelings.
Young children love the word mine and often use it alongside snatching! Teaching young children not to "snatch" is an essential lesson towards teaching them about sharing.
You will be teaching your little ones to manage their impulses and emotions. This critical skill will help them understand that there are sometimes 'boundaries' that they need to respect. This is important, and doing it will help them build up more of an understanding of sharing.
Additionally, it is essential to support your little one if they have had an item snatched away from them by another child.
Talk about what just happened, acknowledge their feelings, help them 'label' their emotions and support them in finding an alternative item to play with.
Show your little one sharing and turn-taking skills by modelling behaviour; your little one is still learning from observing your and other caregivers' actions and behaviours.
When playing games, use language such as "My turn, your turn!" tapping your little one's chest for "your turn" and yours too when acknowledging it's your turn, exaggerating your expressions and gestures to support understanding.
We share daily, so use those everyday situations as learning opportunities. For example, when having a biscuit, breaking it in half, letting them know, "Im sharing my biscuit with you, one piece for you, and one piece for me. "One piece of banana for you, one for me, two blocks for you and two for me", etc.
Slowly your little one will learn how nice it feels when someone shares something with them. And with time, they will make connections, and they will also come to realise that sharing can be a powerful way for them to connect with you and other people.
Using a timer during playtime can be a valuable tool for teaching sharing and turn-taking skills to your little one. Since children are visual learners, a timer can help them understand fairness and boundaries while they play.
If your child is playing with siblings or other children, a timer can help them control their impulses and emotions by showing them when their time with a toy is up.
This can make transitions smoother and reduce conflicts. Additionally, setting equal amounts of time for each child encourages sharing and turn-taking, helping children develop social skills like patience and empathy.
Using a timer also helps children learn independence and responsibility as they become aware of their time limits and pass the toy or activity to the next child. This practice promotes communication and problem-solving skills as children negotiate and find solutions for sharing within the given time frame.
Give them warnings
Giving your little one warnings before transitions and sharing can benefit their development and social skills. For example, "In 2 minutes, it's your sister's turn with the balloon."
By doing so, they can mentally prepare for a change in activity, routine, or taking turns, which can help them feel more secure and in control.
This can reduce feelings of anxiety or frustration that may occur during transitions. Children aware of changes in advance are more likely to navigate them successfully without emotional outbursts or resistance.
Here are some activities ideas that foster sharing and taking turns:
Engaging in role-playing is a wonderful way to teach and explore empathy. For toddlers, understanding how to empathise with others can be challenging. Allowing them to engage in imaginative play, where they can learn to share and take turns, they can better understand and practice these emotions and feelings in a fun and playful manner.
Set up scenarios such as a pretend kitchen or a shop where they must cooperate and take turns being the parent, customer, cashier, chef, etc.
During role-playing activities, encourage conversations about fairness and understanding others' views. Ask your little one questions like, "How do you think they felt?" or "How would you feel if...?" This will help them understand that snatching, not sharing and hitting is not a kind thing to do, as they wouldn't like it if it happened to them.
Get your little one involved in cooking by making biscuits, pizza, or play dough together! Make sure everyone has a chance to measure ingredients, stir, and decorate. For example, you can say, "Now it's your turn to add the flour to the bowl, and then it's my turn to pour in the water."
Building blocks are a great toy to support turn-taking and sharing!
Provide a set of building blocks and encourage your little one to take turns building a tower together. You can also separate the toys into two equal amounts with your little one, "Let's share the blocks, one for you, one for me, two for you, one for two for me, etc.
Encourage discussion and sharing of ideas on how to build the structures.
Sing songs about emotions. You can start by singing if you are happy and you know it, but change the feeling each time, e.g. if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands; if you're sad and you know it, have a cry, etc.
Play in front of the mirror so your little one can practise different expressions and emotions! Exaggerate your actions and expressions and talk about those emotions, for example, "I feel angry when...", "What makes you feel angry?", "If feel happy when...", etc.
Create a creative space by laying a big piece of paper on the floor. Encourage your little ones to think about the materials they want to use for their artwork, and you can also add some suggestions. Work together and take turns adding to the artwork. Share materials and praise each other's teamwork and collaboration throughout the activity.
Stories offer a magical and engaging way of teaching children about sharing, with countless benefits. Stories can show your little one how sharing can bring happiness, strengthen relationships, and solve problems. Moreover, storytelling can inspire children's imaginations and help them visualise the benefits of sharing in real-life scenarios.
When reading with your little one, turn the pages and select the books to read together. Here are some titles to get you started:
I Can Share by Karen Katz
"You can't have my bike! But maybe I'll let you take it for a ride!" Learning to share is one of the harder social rules for little ones to follow, but with this sweet book, it will be a little easier.
Will Bear Share? by Hilary Leung
One ice cream cone. One bear. One timeless question: Will Bear Share? Find out all about friendship, compromise, and of course, sharing.
A warm-hearted picture book about the difficulty of sharing: Amy snuggles on her blankie with her three toys. "I love you all," she says, "because we're together, and you're MINE." She finds it challenging to share with others. But then she realises that what she has made Baby Jo very sad. Amy has a difficult decision to make. What will she do?
Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson
When Crab finds a new shell, he doesn't want to share it with anyone – especially not a blobby purple anemone and a tickly bristle worm. But life in the rock pool proves more challenging than Crab thinks, and he soon finds he needs his new housemates.
Sharing a Shell is a charming underwater tale of friendship and sharing.
The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson
George wished he wasn't the scruffiest giant in town. So when he sees a new shop selling giant-size clothes, he decides it's time for a new look: smart trousers, smart shirt, stripey tie, shiny shoes. Now he's the smartest giant in town until he bumps into some animals desperately needing his help.
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