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Top 7 tips to teach pre-schoolers to share

Sharing is another skill for pre-schoolers to learn, and for most it is not innate or natural. It is a learned skill. Young kids love that special toy and don’t know when they will get it back, or worse if they will ever get it back. This is a challenge to learn to interact socially and play together. As many year 1 primary school teachers have told us, this is another benefit of quality early childcare education. At Play Learn Grow ECE our skilled and experienced teachers are about to nurture these skills.

Play Learn Grow children from our teachers encouraging sharing in a nurturing and caring way

1) Set limits in advance

With my own kids sharing a favourite toy was tough. Just like at Play Laern early childcare education centre, we set equal time limits in the interests of fairness. I am aware of some whanau telling us another great use of the Watercare four minute shower timer – as a visual cue that shows toy time!

2) Recognise pre-schoolers’ feelings

Seeing that children may be concerned about not getting a favourite toy back, you can recognise their feelings. I asked today “are you worried you will not get your smiley face ball back”. This triggers the answer by body language with a head nod (for yes). I explained “I understand your concern, but you will get it back, we have to share so others don’t miss out. You can play with it later today”. It is irrelevant they choose not to play with it later in the day, that was their choice. This used manaakitanga by caring for the mana of the tamariki. Bonds get built from skilled teaching like this.

3) Correct bad sharing behavior
If or more likely when a situation occurs where a child if upset or reacts negatively to another child playing with a desired toy they wanted, then explain about sharing and they can have a turn after others also had a turn. Now a quick note for some parents expecting big things of their just turned 2 year olds – this takes a lot of practice at home and at preschool. At Play Learn Grow we have observed that very few under 3 years old are able to understand sharing without a lot of training at home and at our ECE Centre, and even then it is not perfect as they are so young. The great thing is get to practice at Play Learn Grow. We teach sharing and correct bad sharing behaviour, and after a while it becomes second nature!

4) Modelling good behaviour

Seeing sharing in action is great. At home you can do this even as an adult sharing things like chocolate, drink (from different cups or glasses) or even the TV remote. Point out when a family member sharing and praise them with “thank you for sharing {Dad} or whoever did the sharing”. This also helps create a nurturing culture of sharing.

Too often sharing opportunities are botched when it is someones turn and just a passing “cheers”, “thanks” or “ta” are stated. Until sharing is fully engrained it is best to use the sharing as a learning opportunity.

5) Share with your child

Try some activites with your kids that involve sharing, like basic games. We have done this with Duplo blocks and alternate so that one block is placed by each person participating in turn. Talk about sharing, turns and praise good behaviour.

6) Praise

Praise is such a powerful tool. When you say well done Hamish, or well done Deepika, children really feel good about themselves and their behaviour. When they do a good job of sharing make sure you tell them. Our Centre Manager at Play Learn Grow ECE has a wide range of phrases for praise including “well done Harper, great sharing”, “good playing Arihia, Sarah and Paiku love playing with you”, and “well done team, isn’t sharing fun?” asked as a question to reinforcement the teamwork and fun experience sharing is.

7) Preparation

Many parents are a bit anxious about a play-date with another child. It is important to prepare you child as the host of this event so your child(ren) understand that when Pat and Jen come over, they’ll need to share some toys. I have found it useful to pick out a few toys prior with my children, and to hide away that very special toy (or two) so they are not sharable, which minimises the risk of an emotional disregulation event or outburst.