As a mom of two, something I've learned is that sharing doesn't always come naturally to kids, especially among siblings. Over the years, I've discovered what works and what doesn't when it comes to how to teach kids to share. It takes patience and effort, but eventually, your kids will learn that sharing can make playtime fun for everyone.
Why Sharing Is Important
Like many parents, I want my kids to grow up to be kind and caring adults who understand the value of giving to others. Those skills start developing at an early age, which is why it's essential to teach kids how to share. A big part of sharing is being empathetic toward others and their feelings. This translates to an awareness of how actions affect others as adults.
4 Ways to Teach Kids How to Share
Navigating how to teach kids to share can be tricky. Learning to share is not as simple as telling your kids to do so. Many kids, especially toddlers, may be reluctant to share their toys and belongings. To help, here are four specific steps you can take to encourage your kids to share.
1. Role-Play Sharing
Everything from sharing to taking turns and resolving conflict can be played out with dolls or through pretend play. This approach gives kids a chance to exercise those skills in a comfortable and familiar setting. If your kids aren't into pretend play, board games can be another way to practice taking turns and sharing.
2. Talk About It
Toddlers' attention spans are short, so any discussion should directly concern an event that is about to occur. Every time my kids have a playdate, I sit down with them right before and check in quickly about sharing with their friends.
I ask my kids to consider the toys they are bringing to a playdate and leave behind or put away any special items that they don't feel comfortable sharing. This gives them some power over their own possessions and decision-making. My kids now intentionally pick specific toys to bring to playdates that they know they want to share.
3. Give Positive Feedback
Instead of focusing on the times when kids don't quite get the hang of sharing, keep things positive, and give praise for kind sharing. It can help to praise your own kids and point out when other kids are doing an excellent job of sharing. This serves as a model for them to see how others handle it.
4. Offer Support
Waiting is often the hardest part of sharing, especially for toddlers. I've found that helping my kids deal with the impatience of waiting for a toy can make sharing a little bit easier. For example, if I notice that my son is having a hard time while a friend is playing with his toy, I try to redirect his attention. I might offer him another toy or suggest something fun to do while he waits.
What to Do When Your Kids Refuse to Share
As Psychology Today explains, it takes time and patience for children to develop empathy and the ability to regulate their feelings and impulses. Young kids might not be able to verbalize how they're feeling about sharing. As an adult, I can take cues from their body language and understand when my son is feeling sad about sharing. I'll say things such as, "I can see that you're feeling sad about that," or, "It looks like you made your friend very happy by sharing that." Giving words to their emotions can help kids express their feelings better when they face a difficult situation instead of having a tantrum.
Take time to discuss and support your kids' feelings, and give them opportunities to practice sharing through role-play. As they practice these skills and learn through their experiences with other kids, they will ultimately discover that sharing is caring.
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Why It's Good
Learning how to share is a vital step toward developing empathy as kids grow older, but figuring out how to teach kids to share isn't always easy. With a little patience and practice through play, your kids will soon learn that sharing is caring.