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Learning to Share


preschoolers playing together and sharing toys



Sharing is an important life skill. It’s something toddlers and children need to learn in order to make friends and play cooperatively.

By preschool age, most children have a basic idea about sharing. But your preschooler still might not be keen to put sharing into action, and can be impatient when waiting her turn.

You can build your preschooler’s sharing skills by watching for good turn-taking and encouraging fairness. You can help remind your preschooler how bad he would feel if someone took his toy, or didn’t let him have a turn. Talking to him about other people’s feelings will help him understand life from someone else’s perspective, which is a great skill to have.

Be realistic about your preschooler’s ability to share, at this age most children are still very self-focused, and have little understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions.

Helping your child learn to share

Children often take their cues from what they see their parents doing. When you model good sharing and turn-taking, you give your children a great example to follow.

Encourage sharing by:

  • Pointing out good sharing in others. You can say things like, "Your friend was sharing her toys really well. That was very kind of her". When you see your child trying to share or take turns, make sure you give lots of praise. For example, "I liked the way you let Aziz play with your train. Great sharing!"
  • Playing games that involve sharing and turn-taking. Take your child through the steps, saying things like, "Now it’s my turn to build the tower, then it’s your turn. You share the red blocks with me, and I’ll share the green blocks with you".
  • Talking to your child about sharing before she goes on playdates with other children. You could say, "When Georgia comes over, you’ll need to share some of your toys".
  • Put away any special toys when other children are coming to play at your house. This might help avoid problems with sharing altogether.

Did you know? Sharing teaches children about compromise. They learn that if we give a little to others, we can get some of what we want. Children who share also learn how to take turns and negotiate, and how to cope with disappointment.

When your child won’t share

If your child doesn’t share well, you can try practising this skill together at home. Another strategy is to stay nearby when your child plays with others, encouraging him so he doesn’t forget to share. You don’t need to avoid playdates if your child has trouble sharing. Instead, use them as a chance to help her practise. When she does try to share, say exactly what she did well and how proud you are.

Most young children find sharing and taking turns difficult sometimes. If sharing doesn’t happen, make sure you have an appropriate consequence ready, and an opportunity for your child to try again later. For instance, if siblings are fighting over a toy and not sharing, a reasonable consequence might be to remove the toy for a short period of time. You can then give them another chance to show they can share it with no problems.

© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Preschoolers: Building Social Skills 


Last Updated: November 30, 2014