Learning to Share

By jm_admin

Sharing is a complex and tricky concept for young children. Whilst we view ‘sharing’ as an altruistic value that we wish our children to have, we often warp the idea in a manner that is not developmentally appropriate for young children. Because when sharing is not genuine, it is difficult to empathic and generous. There may be ‘sharing’ on the surface but deep below there are often feelings of upset and resentment.

For young toddlers, they often feel rightful ownership over anything that is in their hands and sight. Until sometime between 2.5 -3 years of age, children typically prefer to ‘parallel play’, by playing next to others but not necessarily with them. Cooperative play with group play agendas and rules typically comes even later.

At Redwood Center of Excellence, we foster the journey in sharing in a multitude of ways. In our learning spaces we typically have one piece of each key materials. For example, there is one Pink Tower or one large red truck. There is one and it is there for all of us to enjoy. Children know that if an activity is on the shelf or in a basket, it is available for use; if it is in use by another child, it’s not yet available.

This helps children develop patience. Children can work with an activity for as long as they wish. They trust that the desired object will be available soon and when it is their turn they will be able to use it until they are done, too. Children are then able to focus and concentrate without fear of their activity being taken away or forced timings imposed.

We find this to be a respectful way of teaching the value of sharing through patiently waiting and taking turns. Educators are there to support and where necessary guide children make alternative choices whilst they wait for their turn. Educators model this language of ‘my work’ and ‘working together’ to help young children verbalise these concepts on their own.

We see as children become a little older, they are able to exercise these skills and can increasingly resolve these matters amongst themselves. Maturation in the brain, executive functioning skills, language and social skills all help come together to assist children in sharing in genuine ways that they feel comfortable with, to be just and fair. When we recognise that we cannot and should not be the ‘deciders,’ we give children space and time. Educators are present to observe and support where necessary with sportscasting children’s feelings and emotions when necessary.

However, we recognise that what is effective in the nursery might not always work so at home. So, how can we foster sharing?

Modelling. We can do this is in a way that helps children develop positive social skills to use with their peers. For example, when we are playing with a child and they ask for something, often we are immediately inclined to agree. Instead, try, “I’m using this one right now, but you can have this one, or you can use it after I am finished.” This helps children become increasingly used to the idea and they will expect this behaviour from their friends too.

Respect. Help children share in a way that is comfortable for them. When friends are visiting, help your child select a few toys they are willing to share with their friends. We all have our most cherished belongings that we are reluctant to share. Choose the less-treasured items and gather in a safe place, such as the living room to play.

Limit-setting. Help your children set limits. This is a wonderful time for role play! Practice saying “No thank you”, “maybe later,” “I’d rather play alone, but thank you!” They are all respectful answers.

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