Start Off Small
A child does not truly understand the concept of sharing until about age 5, says Sara Lise Raff, an educational consultant and mom of three. "However, a child can be taught to understand some basic rules. such as waiting your turn ('she goes, then you go'), if you walk away from a toy it is open for anyone else to play with, and if you bring your toy to a playdate, then everyone there gets to play with it."
The next time your child doesn't want to part with something, set a timer, suggests Lynne Milliner, a pediatrician with Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland. "Let your child know that he'll get to play for 10 minutes and then, when the timer goes off, it's his sister's turn to play for 10 minutes. This will show your child how to take turns and also let him know that giving up his toy isn't permanent."
Put Away Special Items
You probably have a few prized possessions that you wouldn't feel comfortable loaning to a friend, so why should your child be expected to part with his favorite items? "If there is a particular toy or book that he really loves, don't force him to share it with others," says Michelle LaRowe, a former nanny and author of A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists. "But also make sure he understands that those items can't come out during a playdate. They'll stay in the closet until his guests leave."
Lead by Example
Kids pay close attention to what their parents do, so let your child see you in the act of sharing, says Laura Olson, a former teacher and the vice president of education for Kiddie Academy, a national child care and education franchise. "If you're eating a sandwich, ask him if he'd like a piece of it. You and your spouse should also make a point to show your child how you share with one another, whether it's taking turns choosing what movie to watch or sharing space in the bathroom."
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Pick a Theme
A toddler sees another child playing with a toy and suddenly he has to have it! While the behavior is perfectly normal, it can be frustrating -- for you. To bypass toy envy, Michelle LaRowe, a former nanny and author of A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists, suggests choosing a theme for playdates (beach, farm, cooking, etc.) so that all of the kiddies are playing with the same types of toys. "I will also color-coordinate some of the toys so there isn't a fight over the red or blue one -- everyone has the same type or color to play with!" she says.
Give to Charity
The holidays are the perfect time to talk to your children about sharing with others less fortunate. Participate in a program such as a children's shelter toy collection or a coat drive where your child can donate some of her own toys or clothes that are no longer in use. Or you can bring your child to the store and have her pick out a few new toys that will be donated to charity.
If your child is a master at saying no when asked to share, think about a little role reversal. Get down on the floor for some playtime and, when your little one asks for something -- the yellow block or a turn at banging the keys on his toy piano -- simply say no. When he gets upset, talk to him about how he feels right now and how he wouldn't want to make his friends feel the same way. You can remind him of this moment the next time you're at a playdate and he hesitates to share.
Praise the Positive!
We spend so much time reminding them to behave, it's easy to forget to offer applause when your child does exactly what you want him to do. Still, don't forget to praise him when he does share with someone -- whether you had to remind him to do it or not. "Let him know how happy you are to see him being so nice to his friend or sibling, and also point out that he's made that other child very happy, too," says Laura Olson, a former teacher and the vice president of education for Kiddie Academy, a national child care and education franchise.
Remember, Practice Makes Perfect
Just being around other little ones and interacting during play can be a lesson in sharing, so be sure that your child is used to being around other children his age as early on as possible, says Renee Mosiman, a family therapist and co-author of The Smarter Preschooler: Unlocking Your Child's Intellectual Potential. "Having a regular set of playmates over the years will encourage trust among friends. As your child develops that sense of trust, he will be more likely to share with others."
Copyright © 2009 Meredith Corporation.