Sharing in the Early Years

Parents with two or more children often face difficulties with their children sharing on a daily basis.  Struggles with sharing and turn taking in the early years is inevitable; children are beginning to learn about ownership and can become possessive about their things. Problems can also occur when other children visit your home or when they mix with other children in community groups.

Learning to share and take turns is as an important part of growing up. In this blog from the parenting team we offer some suggestions to help teach your children to share and play together.

Looking out for good behaviour is key; start off by noticing when your children are playing together well.  Offer praise and encouragement when you see something that you like and they will be much more likely to do it again.

children fighting over a toy

Set a Good Example

This is a simple but effective strategy to teach your child to share by showing them how.  Model the behaviour you want to see by offering your child a snack you are eating or by letting them take a turn of something you are doing.

Set Some Clear Ground Rules

Have a few simple rules when your children are playing together, giving them a clear understanding of how you expect them to behave.

It is important rules tell your children what they should be doing, for example:

 Ask if you can play with someone else’s toy

Allow child to play with a toy you are not using

You have 15 minutes each to play with toy

Explain the rules to children visiting your home and use your usual approach to discipline.

Select Activities which Encourage Sharing

Set up a fun activity you are able to supervise such as Lego, playdough, or small world play. Observe your children playing and praise them for sharing and following the rules.

Children Sharing in the Early Years

Start off with a short amount of time they play together in the beginning and gradually extend the time period.

Praise your Child

In Triple P we encourage parents to use descriptive praise, describing the behaviour you like seeing, for example “Henry, well done for asking for a turn” or “Ava, good sharing”

How to Manage Sharing Problems in the Early Years

Give Clear, Calm Instructions

If your child does something wrong, tell them what to stop doing and what to do instead.  “Mark stop snatching, give the toy back and share the toy”

Use Directed Discussion

This involves, gaining your child’s attention, telling your child the problem, and getting your child to describe or show you the correct behaviour.  Praise your child if they cooperate. E.g.

Mark you have just snatched Toms toy, what is our rule for sharing toys?

Ask them to show you what they should be doing instead. Praise.

Talk to your child and ask them how it feels when their toy is taken away?

 Use a Logical Consequence

If your child does not do as you have asked, give a logical consequence that fits the situation. For example remove the toy your child is playing with for a few minutes. Explain why you are removing the toy and ignore complaints and protests. Do not argue or debate the point. Return the activity when the time is up and ask your child to show you the correct way to behave, giving them the opportunity to do the right thing. Praise your child when behaving well.  If the problem behaviour happens again repeat the logical consequence for a longer period.

Top tip: Use a sand timer to indicate the length of time the toy will be taken away, so your child understands when they toy will be returned.

Quiet Time

If necessary use quiet time if your child struggles to cooperate after using a logical consequence. This involves telling your child what they have done wrong and removing them to one side or at the edge of the activity, telling them they need to be quiet for a few minutes.  Again ignore all protest and don’t debate or argue the point.  The time starts when your child is quiet.  When quiet time is finished go back to the activity and praise them when they behave well. If you can, sit with your child and take turns in the activity yourself to ensure turn-taking takes place.

What have you found helpful for teaching sharing in the early years? Comment below to let us know!

For further suggestions and support with your parenting why not book onto one of our parenting programmes!

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