>Dear Dr. Hackney,
What are the best ways to foster sharing among toddlers? There is “taking turns” and there is taking the toy away if they can’t share it, but I’m wondering if there are other techniques as well.
Blog Reader, February 2008
Under three years-old, your best bet is to focus on turn-taking. Sharing is an abstract thing. No one really has full ownership, and everyone might all touch at the same time. This can be hard for toddlers to manage. Turn-taking is much more concrete – I have it to myself for a while, then you have it to yourself. If I am patient, I can have another turn when you are done.
If your child is having difficulty with turn-taking, you might more actively practice. If he is playing at the train table when you come in the playroom, you could pick up an unused train and say out loud, “Wow! The green engine. I am going to take a turn with this train.” If he wants the green one immediately, you can say, “Oh, you would like a turn? I am taking a turn but will be done in just a minute, and you can have the next turn.” Role the train for just a bit longer, and then say, “I am done; you can have a turn now.” You might add, “When you are done, can I have another turn?” Then when he is done, if he remembers to give it back you, say, “You remembered I wanted a turn; that was thoughtful!” If he forgets, you say, “Oh, remember I want the next turn,” and prompt him to hand it to you. Again, this can take some time.
Whenever you find yourself sharing something with your child, describe to them what you are doing. “Look at mommy! I am sharing my yogurt with you. I was eating yogurt, and you want some, so I am sharing!”
Rene Hackney, PhD.
Parenting Playgroups, Inc.