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Encouraging the skills of sharing, waiting and taking turns

Child development

Learning to share, wait, and take turns are important skills for young children to learn, according to Goodstart Early Learning’s Troy Dunn.

But for children under the age of three, not wanting or being able to share, wait or turn-take is a normal part of their development.

Mr Dunn, Goodstart's national inclusive practices consultant, said in the early years, young children can develop attachments to both people and things, which can make it difficult for them to share them.

 “Adults also have possessions and items which are valued and important to them, and h they may not feel comfortable with sharing.”

For example, imagine someone asking to borrow your engagement ring for a while - they don’t want to keep it, they just want to share it with you.

This is how children can feel when someone comes up and tries to take their special toys or possessions.

“Their toys or possessions are equally important to them and often they will not feel safe and secure if their important things are being handled by someone else,” Mr Dunn said.

We also often confuse sharing with giving up an item when another child wants it which can send mixed messages. We can insist our children share when another child demands a toy, worrying our child might become selfish or other parents will think badly of us if we don’t.

Mr Dunn said while this was a natural phase children progressed through, there were ways parents could start to encourage the skills of sharing, waiting and turn-taking.

“The best way to approach sharing and turn taking is to allow children to finish their play, and then encourage them to surrender it.”

As an example, Mr Dunn says:
James is playing with his toy car and his friend Susan comes over and tries to take it.
A possible approach could be “Susan, James is playing with that toy at the moment, however as soon as he is done you can have a turn.
“Why don’t we go find another toy for you to play with in the meantime?”
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