Knowing how to share is a lesson that is taught by influencers of children. It is not something that children naturally have an understanding of. My daughter, age 4, still has a hard time with the sharing concept but it is not because I haven’t tried to teach it. It is because she was an only child for so long and thinks that every toy in the house is hers. It may come as a surprise to her, but even though those toys were technically only hers prior to her brother being born, she now doesn’t have sole ownership of them and has to share. Insert angry child face here.
Teaching Life Principles Through Play:
A good way to model principles to a young child is through play. Games hold a child’s attention, allowing lessons to sink in, in the spirit of fun. Children are more likely to remember what they have learned through play than what they’ve heard in your lectures. – AskDrSears.com.
Older siblings typically don’t have to learn to share until their younger sibling(s) are mobile. When everyone in the house is on the move is when sharing situations can get heated. In order to get the older sibling to understand the concept of sharing, it is important to explain to them what it means to share.
- Use food as a prime example. I know kids want bites of food from their parent’s plates all of the time. When your child asks for a bite, remind them that you are going to share your food with them.
- Remind children to always say please and thank you when asking to share and when the share takes place. This teaches manners, a lifelong skill that is useful in so many ways.
- Let the child know you understand that sharing is hard when they are having trouble learning the concept. Get down to their eye level and compliment them on things they do best and teach them that when they share, other people will be happy too. It is a good feeling to make other people around them happy and they will get along with other children better.
- If you child refuses to share a toy, ask them what they think is a good compromise. Should they share the toy for a set number of minutes (which teaches the receiving child that they will have to give the toy back)? Should the toy go into a timeout? If the toy can’t be shared then it can’t be played with anymore. Does the child think there is another toy the asking child might want to play with more and offer it instead? Can they both/all play with the toy at the same time?
- Make sharing a game. Capri likes to have her dollhouse in a certain order (I like to call this OCD but whatever). Cam likes to pull everything out of her dollhouse and throw it on the ground. So I made a game out of this. We call it tornado and when Cam knocks everything out of the dollhouse, Capri has to find Cam’s police car and drive it over to the dollhouse. The police then have to assess the weather damage and help the family rebuild. Since we have been playing this game, Capri has been perfectly fine with Cam messing up her dollhouse and sometimes even laughs. And of course Cam loves to make a mess!
When Not to Share
There are times when it is OK not to share and it is important to teach this too. Certain toys are for certain ages. It can be tough to keep these toys separate. In my house, we call these toys little toys which means they are small enough for Cam, who is 1, to put into his mouth. Capri understands that these toys are not safe for him so we keep them in her room. The toys in her room are no share toys. Cam is not allowed to play in her room, without my supervision of course.
It is also a best practice to teach your children not to share drinks or food when others are, or have been, sick. Germs can easily be spread this way and it is a good time to teach that they can say no.
Activities to Encourage Sharing
- Have a toy sharing play date. Invite your mom friends and their children over and have each child bring a couple of toys to share. While together, the lesson of the day is sharing. Parents can also share strategies to encourage children to share with each other. You never know when a phrase that another parent uses may resonate better with your child.
- Play share games. ‘Share the wealth’ is a game that we love at my house. Give one child a bunch of items like toys, money, candy, a favorite stuffed animal, etc., and ask them to share these items with people in the room. You can always use baby dolls and stuffed animals as placeholders for people they need to give items to. Then once they have passed everything out, allow them to collect it again, while saying thank you when collected. Do this with each child and make it a fun game.
- Make cookies with intentions of sharing. This is by far my favorite. Capri loves to bake and Lord knows I don’t need the calories! So I have taught her to deliver the baked goods to our neighbors. Win-win for everyone!
What are some ways that you have taught your children to share? I’d love to hear your ideas and try to incorporate them into my tactics.