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Learning to share: Preschoolers

Learning to share: Preschoolers

Why is sharing important?

The ability to share is a developmental milestone in childhood. Sharing is an essential skill for children to learn for several reasons, including:

  • Playing cooperatively, which can then lead to forming friendships – some of which may be long-term
  • Negotiating and compromising – learning about the concept of being ‘fair’.
  • Learning to cope with disappointment
  • Introducing concepts of teamwork and collaboration

It’s important for children to learn to share in their early years, so they can get along socially with others at playgroup, play dates, early childcare, and eventually kindergarten.

Learning how to take turns is also very valuable in building their speech development as well as their communication skills.

Help your child learn to share

Children need to be given opportunities to learn how to share, and to continue honing this skill.

Examples of this include:

  • Make it fun, rather than strictly being a ‘teachable moment’. Do a puzzle and share the pieces.
  • Play co-operative games in a relaxed and familiar environment
  • Share projects – plant flowers in the garden together, or colour in together using the same pack of crayons
  • Give your child something to share on a play date, like a sheet of stickers
  • Talk about sharing their toys with their friends

What happens when your child finds it hard to share?

Verbal encouragement, and letting them know what they have done well, helps to reinforce positive development.

Role-modelling how to share and how to take turns within your family will also help with their understanding, and how they can then apply this to real-life scenarios outside of the household. The best way for children to learn generosity is to witness it. Share your ice cream, then ask if you can wear your child’s hat for a few minutes! Use the word ‘share’ to describe what you are both doing.

Talking to your child about their friends/siblings’ feelings will also help your child understand things from someone else’s point of view, and start to build on their empathy.

Children are still impulsive, and don’t have a great grasp of time – therefore, waiting for his sibling or playmate to finish playing with a toy can be very difficult. It is important also to be realistic about a preschooler’s ability to share. At this age, children are still learning and can find it hard to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings.

Children will learn, given time, patience and encouragement, that sharing with their peers is more fun than keeping things just for themselves.