The word “sharing” doesn’t usually conjure up images of fun and happy play in the mind of preschoolers’ parents. More often, sharing means protests of “mine!” and guaranteed hurt feelings. But sharing doesn’t have to be dreaded. The best way to teach sharing is by simply having fun with it.
Preschoolers are deeply involved in the world of playful imagination. This allows them to assign roles to themselves and others to “act out” playful scenarios. And at about age three, children become less aggressive, and more interested in playing together and creating their own imaginary roles. As parents that’s our opportunity to get them to try new, creative and fun ways of coping with disappointment while they wait for their turn.
But first, banish the word “share” from your vocabulary – it’s too abstract. It’s confusing to your preschooler, who thinks the word “sharing” means “giving.” Instead, ask your preschooler to TAKE TURNS. It’s a lot easier to understand, and it reminds your child that when he gives a turn, he gets one back too.
Matthew isn’t thrilled about handing over his new toy to Noah. But when Matthew’s older brother shows him that he can play a game while he waits – and still get to play with his beloved new toy later – he learns that sharing can be fun, too.
More Fun With Sharing
- Next time you’re helping the kids take turns, ask the one who has to wait to pick her favorite song for everyone to sing. Short and sweet ditties like Row, Row, Row Your Boat, the ABC song, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are popular – because they work.
- Think ahead to create an environment where sharing can be fun. Cooperative games like puzzles and building castles show that everyone can share in the final project and have fun doing it. Put away “special” toys in favor of cooperative activities like helping with snack time, baking, gardening and caring for pets. This age group even enjoys dishwashing. Assign separate washing, rinsing and drying duties, then rotate.
- Use a timer. Preschoolers haven’t yet developed a good sense of time, so asking them to wait “just a minute” can feel like torture. Set the timer for no more than two to three minutes. It will help show the passage of time – and prove that everyone is getting the same amount for their turn. (Often, kids become more interested in how the timer works than in the original, coveted toy!)
- “Silly face” games get great mileage in preschool and help children pass the time while waiting for a turn. While waiting in line at Disneyland last summer, my very silly hubby had the kids rolling with laughter by teaching them the “stare-eyes” game. You know: Stare at your opponent. The first one to smile loses. Repeat until everyone is in hysterics. Next thing they know, it’s THEIR turn!