How to Help Your Preschooler Learn to Share
It’s perfectly normal for your preschooler to find sharing hard. Children generally understand the concept of sharing at about age three. But it will take a while longer before your child is prepared to do it. Although your child is starting to develop empathy and knows that he needs to take turns, he isn’t mature enough to resist all of his impulses. Most three-year-olds and four-year-olds put their own needs first, and can get upset when the needs of others get in the way.
Your child may not understand enough to realize that even if he doesn’t have a toy now, it’ll be his turn soon. So don’t be surprised when you see him grab a truck from a friend or refuse to let his sister hold his favorite toy.
Beneath the surface, though, his sharing skills are maturing. Part of this is because of how much he loves getting praise from you. He may enjoy drawing pictures for teachers, making presents for you, and sharing snacks with his sibling or friends. You can sow the seeds of generosity by gently encouraging your child to share. Here are some ideas on facilitating his budding sharing skills:
Make it fun
Teach your child cooperative games in which he has to work together with others, rather than competitive games that focus on winning. You could try doing a jigsaw puzzle together, taking turns to add pieces. Or you could blow up a balloon and play keep-it-up. Share projects, too: water the plants, sweep the floor, or unpack the shopping together.
It can be embarrassing to see your child snatching a teddy from his friend or throwing a tantrum because his turn with the trucks has ended. But if you tell your child that he’s selfish or force him to hand over a prized possession, he may get the message that sharing has negative consequences.
When children feel ashamed or embarrassed, they sometimes become defensive, which can make it much more difficult to learn new skills. Keep in mind that it’s natural for your child to want to keep some items to himself as he develops a sense of what it means to own something. Rest assured that as he matures, he’ll learn that sharing with friends is much more fun than playing by himself.
There may be some objects, such as a particularly beloved teddy or comfort blanket, that your child will never want to share. It’s fine to keep one or two favorites as special objects just for him, just as you probably have some prized possessions that you prefer not to share.
Talk it out
When your child squabbles with a friend about a toy, try to intervene before things become too heated. If either child starts having a full-blown tantrum, try to remove your child from the area until things have calmed down. Once both children are ready to listen, discuss the situation with them in a thoughtful and compassionate way.
If your child’s friend is holding something back, explain how he may be feeling. For instance: “Josh really likes that toy, and he doesn’t want anyone to play with it right now. Can you find something else to play with?”
Help your preschooler put his own feelings into words, too. You may need to give him the vocabulary, for example, by saying, “It sounds like you feel cross,” or “you’re looking a bit disappointed.” This also reassures your child that you understand how he might be feeling.
If he’s reluctant to share a particular toy, ask him why. Maybe you’ll discover that there’s a shortage of train tracks at his nursery, or that he especially prizes his football cards because they were a present from Grandad.
Teach your child to problem-solve
If your little one has a firm grip on a toy truck that his playmate wants, the concept of sharing the truck may not even have occurred to him. Encourage your child to take turns with the truck. Setting a kitchen timer to mark each child’s turn may help.
Reassure him that sharing isn’t the same as giving away, and point out that if he shares his toys with friends, they’ll be more inclined to share theirs with him.
Respect your child’s possessions
If your preschooler feels that his clothes, books, and toys may be lost or damaged, he’ll be less willing to share them. So ask permission before you let his sister borrow his coloring pencils, and give him the option of saying no.
Before a play date, ask your child if there’s anything he’d rather not share, and help him find a safe place to put his special toys. Then ask him to think of some things that would be fun for him and his guest to play with together, such as walkie-talkies, art and craft supplies, or a bat and ball. Ask his friend to bring along a few toys, too, so your child isn’t the only one sharing.
The best way for your three- or four-year-old to learn generosity is to witness it. So share your ice cream with him. Offer him your scarf for a superhero’s cape, and ask if you can try on his new hat.
Use the word “share” to describe what you’re doing, and let your child know that you can share a story, a feeling, or an idea, as well as sharing material things. Most importantly, let him see you give and take, compromise, and share with others. #
Courtesy of BabyCentre. For other helpful tips, visit babycentre.com.