Learning to share can be a challenge for young children, but sharing is a skill they need for play and learning throughout childhood. You can help your child learn to share by giving them plenty of time and opportunities to practise. Praise and encouragement for good sharing will help too.
Sharing is a vital life skill. It’s something toddlers and children need to learn so they can make and keep friends, and play cooperatively. Once your child starts school, they will need to be able to share with others.
Sharing teaches children about compromise and fairness. They learn that if we give a little to others, we can get some of what we want as well. Children who share also learn how to take turns and negotiate, and how to cope with disappointment. These are all important life skills.
Children learn a lot from just watching what their parents do. When you model good sharing and turn-taking in your family, it gives your children a great example to follow.
Children also need opportunities to learn about and practise sharing. Here are some ways to encourage sharing in everyday life:
Although it’s important to share, it’s OK for children to have some toys that they keep just for themselves. It’s a good idea to put away these special toys when other children come to play at your house. This can help you avoid problems with sharing.
Sharing can be a challenge, especially at first. Most children need practice and support to develop this skill.
If your child doesn’t share well, you can try practising together at home and talking about what you’re doing. For example, ‘Let’s share this banana. You can have some, and I can have some’.
There’s no reason to avoid play dates if your child has trouble sharing. Instead, use them as a chance to help your child practise. You could stay nearby and encourage them so they do not forget to share. When they do try to share, you can say exactly what they did well and how proud you are.
Consequences for not sharing
For children over three years, it can help to create consequences for not sharing.
When you use consequences for not sharing, it’s important that the consequences relate to the thing that’s being shared – or not shared! For example, if children aren’t sharing a toy train, you might take the train away from both of them for a short period of time. Neither child can play with the train, so the consequence feels the same for both of them. This can also get children thinking about what they need to do if they want to play with the toy together.
When you think they’re ready, you can give the toy back so children get another chance to show they can share.
By the time most children start school, they’re beginning to understand that other people have feelings too. This means they’re more likely to share and take turns, although it might still be hard for them to share a favourite toy or game.
School-age children also have a strong sense of fairness and might not want to share a toy or a play a game if they think they won’t get a fair go. It might help to check the rules of the games your child is playing, and reassure your child and others that they’ll all get a turn.
At this age, your child will be much more patient and tolerant than they used to be. They will also be keen to do the right thing and can form more complex relationships, which really helps with the idea of sharing. Your child can get lots of practice sharing at school too – for example, sharing toys at school, resources, space, and even sharing their teacher!