Teaching children to share is a vital part of their development. Sharing is a foundational skill that promotes empathy, cooperation, and social interaction. However, it can be a challenging concept for children to grasp.
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Strategies to teach children to share
Here are some strategies that you can use to teach your children about sharing.
Model Sharing: The most effective way to teach sharing is by setting a good example. Show your child how you share with others, narrating your actions as you do so. For example, you might say, “I’m going to share my biscuits with Daddy. Would you like one, too?” Children learn a lot from observing adult behaviours.
Start with Turn-Taking: Younger children often find it easier to understand the concept of taking turns rather than sharing. You could use a timer to help make the turn-taking visible. When it’s their turn, set the timer for a specific period, and when it beeps, it’s the other person’s turn.
Use Cooperative Games: Playing games that involve teamwork and sharing can make the process fun. Games like ‘pass the parcel’ or building a puzzle together can help teach children the joy and value of sharing.
Encourage Empathy: Help your child understand how it feels when someone shares with them and when someone doesn’t. You can use children’s books or role-playing scenarios to illustrate these situations.
Use Praise and Positive Reinforcement: Whenever your child shares, praise them for it. This positive reinforcement will make them more likely to repeat the behaviour in the future. Be specific with your praise, for instance, say, “I saw how you shared your toy with your sister. That was very kind.”
Teach them to Express Their Feelings: Children might not share because they are afraid of losing their toy or because they feel overwhelmed. Teaching them to express their feelings verbally can help them navigate these situations. Encourage them to use phrases like “I’m still playing with this, but you can have a turn when I’m done.”
Practise Patience: Learning to share takes time. Children might need to be reminded repeatedly before they start sharing spontaneously. Be patient and keep reinforcing the message.
Introduce the Concept of Borrowing: Sometimes children struggle to share because they’re afraid they won’t get their things back. Teaching them about borrowing can help. Explain that when someone borrows their toy, they’ll always get it back.
Respect Their Special Toys: Everyone has special items that they don’t want to share, and that’s okay. Allow your child to have a few toys that they don’t have to share. This respect for their personal belongings can make them more likely to share other items.
Involve Them in Problem-Solving: If there’s a conflict over a toy, instead of imposing a solution, involve your child in the problem-solving process. Ask them, “How can we make sure everyone gets a turn?” This can help them develop their own sharing strategies.
Demonstrate Generosity: Teach your child the joy of giving. You could involve them in preparing a gift for a friend or donating some of their unused toys to a charity.
Share Everyday Items: Sharing isn’t just about toys. Involve your child in sharing everyday items, like food, books, or a seat on the sofa. This will help them realise that sharing is a part of daily life.
Teaching children to share involves patience, consistency, and plenty of practice. It’s not something that will happen overnight, but with time, your child will understand and appreciate the value of sharing. It’s important to remember that each child is different, and what works for one might not work for another. Keep trying different methods until you find what works best for your child. The key is to make sharing a positive and rewarding experience.
Why should children learn to share
Learning to share is a crucial component of a child’s social and emotional development, and it’s beneficial for several reasons:
Fosters Social Skills: Sharing teaches children how to play and interact with others. They learn about cooperation, compromise, and negotiation, all of which are key skills for forming successful social relationships.
Develops Empathy: When children share, they learn to consider the feelings and needs of others. They start to understand how their actions affect others, helping them develop empathy and compassion.
Encourages Communication: Sharing often involves verbal and non-verbal communication. Children need to express their needs, listen to others, and sometimes engage in problem-solving discussions, which can significantly enhance their communication skills.
Teaches about Fairness and Equality: Sharing gives children a sense of fairness and equality. They learn the concept of taking turns, reinforcing the idea that everyone should have an equal opportunity to play, use, or participate.
Prepares for Future Situations: Sharing is not limited to the playground. As they grow, children will find themselves in numerous situations (at school, work, and personal relationships) where they’ll need to share resources, space, or time. Early experiences with sharing prepare them for these scenarios.
Promotes Positive Feelings and Friendships: Sharing can create positive feelings and foster friendships. When a child shares, they are more likely to be seen as generous and kind, qualities that attract friendships.
Reduces Conflicts: Learning to share can help reduce conflicts and disagreements among children. It helps them understand the importance of respect for others’ belongings and personal space.
Cultivates Gratitude and Generosity: By learning to share, children also learn to appreciate what they have and develop a sense of generosity. These are valuable traits that contribute to a kind and caring character.
Promotes Problem-Solving Skills: Sharing often involves negotiation and decision-making, especially when there is a disagreement over a shared item. This situation offers a great opportunity for children to develop their problem-solving skills. They learn to think critically, consider different options, and negotiate a solution that is acceptable to all parties involved.
Develops Patience and Self-Control: Sharing often requires children to wait for their turn. This can be a challenging task for young children, but it’s an excellent way to help them develop patience and self-control. It teaches them that they can’t always have what they want immediately, a lesson that’s essential for managing expectations and dealing with disappointments in life.
Remember, children learn best by observing the behaviours of those around them. So, demonstrating the act of sharing in your daily life can greatly help instil this valuable skill in children.
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