I just watched a TV segment about young children and “sharing”

They reported on a trend around the country whereby many preschool and childcare programs are not requiring children to share their toys.  The belief is that requiring a child to relinquish a toy upon request creates a sense of entitlement in the one doing the asking.

Is this a good thing or not?

First, there is a difference between sharing and turn taking and adults often confuse children by using these terms incorrectly.  I can share a cookie but I can’t share a toy.  I can take a turn with a toy but typically, I don’t take a turn with a cookie.  When a child is wanting to play with a toy he should be directed to ask for a turn.

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http://www.flickr.comCourtesy of Creative Commons /photos/platinumblondelife5/123381310/sizes/m/in/photostream/

“May I please have a turn with the tricycle? 

Most likely the answer to that question is going to be, “No, I’m not done!” which is a legitimate response.  Adults are not automatically expected to turn something over to another person, simply for the asking.  Neither should children.

The child may have just started playing with the trike.   The child wanting a turn can then be directed to say, “When you are finished, would you please let me know so that I can have a turn?”

Even the most generous child does not part easily with a favorite toy.  So how do you determine when a turn is over?  This dilemma presents an opportunity for problem solving! 

Children can be led to brainstorm solutions, which in this case may be allowing the child to take 5 more laps on the trike before it is the second child’s turn, or setting a timer to indicate when the turn is over.  Help the child who is waiting find something to do.  Waiting is a difficult behavior for young children and adults need to help them learn appropriate strategies for managing their anticipation appropriately.

It is important to remember that children under three have a developmental incapacity to view a situation through the eyes of another child, which makes turn taking and sharing beyond their grasp.

Conflicts over toys are best handled through redirecting attention to other activities or materials.  The capacity to take turns or share begins to emerge around 3 and takes a long time to fully come into fruition.

By age 5 typical children can be expected to take turns or share most of the time.  There will still be the occasional conflict that requires adult support, but they are well on their way to positive social behavior.

So, what can you do to support turn taking and sharing?

1.      Redirect children under 3 to other activities.

2.      Give children the words to say when asking for a turn, or sharing an item that can be divided.

3.      View conflicts over turn taking and sharing as an opportunity to problem solve.

Now it’s YOUR TURN – please share your thoughts!   😉