Check out the latest blog post on sharing from Melanie Wilkins with Blue Ridge Community College.

Sharing doesn’t always come easy or naturally to us. Do you remember that red fire truck you got for your birthday or that favorite stuffed animal you didn’t want to give up even for a short time to go in the washing machine? It’s hard for all of us to give up that prized possession.

For preschool children, sharing takes practice and lots of encouragement from parents, older siblings, and teachers. If your child is not good at sharing, that’s pretty typical. These are the years to learn and practice how to get along with others, since this is a skill that is critical when entering school and throughout life.

Over and over, studies agree that sharing and getting along with others is equally important (and some say more important) than ABC’s and 123’s before entering Kindergarten. In fact, a child’s ability to learn new information is influenced by his/her ability to interact appropriately with others. So, how do we help young children learn this very important and challenging skill?

  • Set Limits- use a  visual timer and be sure your child understands your message that “at this     time, your turn is done and it will be your friend’s turn with this toy.”
  • Model Sharing- children watch and listen to us, as trusted adults in their life. Talk about and show young children how to share. For example, talk about how you shared with a family member: “Thank you for sharing your grapes with  me, Daddy.”
  • Praise and Point Out sharing- when you see your child or another child sharing, point it out and praise them: “That was kind of you to share your trucks with sister.”
  • Not everything needs shared- if your child has a special stuffed animal or “comfort toy” it’s not necessary that your child share this. So it won’t become an issue, set guidelines for this special toy. For example, when it’s not naptime or bedtime, the toy stays on the child’s bed. Or, the toy only comes out at certain times.
  • Baby steps- if your child struggles with sharing, take small steps in the process of teaching this skill. You might start by helping your child allow another child to touch their toy. “Your friend wants to pet your doggy. He won’t take it from you; he just wants to pet it.” You may even need to gently help your child hand-over-hand reach the doggy out to the other child, reassuring that the other child is not going to take it away.
  • “Use Your Words”- help children use their words when it comes to sharing. Parents and adults need to model these words and phrases to help teach sharing and getting along with others:  “Tell your friend, ‘You can play with my truck in five minutes. It is my turn now.’ “
  • Practice- you may want to set up “games” that practice sharing and turn-taking such as rolling a     ball back and forth between two children. During the game, talk about sharing: “Your turn to roll the ball. I like the way you’re sharing your ball.”

Remember, learning to share is a process. It takes time and a lot of practice (and patience on our part as
parents and teachers). It’s an important skill and part of a child’s social and emotional development that they will carry with them as they enter school and throughout their life.