It’s all about give and take with children

Helen O’Callaghan finds out how young children learn to share.

It’s all about give and take with children

GETTING your young child to share can be a challenge — and for three reasons, says Laura Haugh, mum-in-residence at “They don’t have a good grasp of time, which makes it harder for them to realise they’ve had a toy for a long time and the other child wants it back. They’re asserting their independence. And they may not have the words to describe how they feel.”

Experts advise bringing the concept of sharing into your child’s consciousness. Get him to share jobs with you such as sorting the laundry or unpacking the groceries. Play cooperative games with him where you each take turns – for example, finding the next piece of the puzzle. When engaged in these activities, mention to your child that what you are doing is sharing the task or game.

“Teach them about give and take, about being respectful and enjoying the activity. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and have them do so too. They will then have a greater understanding when it comes to sharing toys.”

It’s good to explain to your child that sharing doesn’t mean giving something away. Point out that there are benefits to sharing and get them to swap toys. Use an egg-timer to help children see that each gets a turn for a period of time. Show your child understanding, says Haugh.

“Say ‘I understand you were playing with that and you don’t want to give it to your friend. But they want to have it just for a little while and they’ll ask you nicely for it. Remind him of a time when he wanted a coveted toy and he got to play with it.”

Haugh is mum to James, five, and Lucy, three, and says it can be hard for younger and older siblings to be good at sharing.

“When the older child is playing with a toy that’s too advanced for the younger, yet the smaller child wants to participate — it can seem like he’s wrecking the game.”

She explains to the older child that his little sibling just thinks he’s brilliant and wants to spend time with him. “It is reasonable for the older child to have some toys that are off-limits to the younger one. Encourage him to play with those when the little child is napping. Get children to ask for permission to use another’s toy rather than just taking things.”

She recommends encouraging your child to ask you politely if he wants to have a go on your laptop or iPhone. Then ask him to do something for you so he knows there’s give and take. Teach your child to share by modelling sharing — let him see you dividing a cake between you and him, or teaming up with your partner to do household chores.


* Help child to verbalise his feelings – ask him what’s wrong if he’s reluctant to share on a particular day.

* Respect child’s right not to want to share a few really special toys with a play-date.

* Keep such toys out of view but say you’ll expect him to share all other toys.

* Praise child when he shares – ‘I loved the way you shared your truck with Joe.

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