The socio-emotional development of your preschooler usually reaches a point during their third year that allows for productive sharing. Preschoolers more readily play with their peers rather than alongside them. The parallel play they experienced as toddlers has given way to more interactive play. There are, however, some preschoolers that have a very difficult time sharing toys, time and equipment; even if the items don’t belong to them.
If your preschooler is having difficulty achieving this important milestone in social development, try implementing some of the following tips at home to help build sharing skills.
Schedule play dates at your home and determines with your preschooler which toys will be available for their friend to use. Once the choices have been made, reiterate with your preschooler that all the toys he chose will be played with by their play date friend.
Special toys that are off-limits for sharing should be stowed from view. If your preschooler decides to add toys not previously chosen, remind them that these toys then become “share toys”.
Look for moments to reinforce desired behaviors. Keep an eye on the preschoolers as they are playing and use opportunities for praise as they arise. Statements such as “I like the way you are building with the Legos together” helps to reinforce to your preschooler that they are demonstrating desirable behavior.
Model sharing for your preschooler whenever possible; children mimic what they observe. Share with your spouse, other children, friends and family members and anyone else you can think of. Make a production of it. For example, share homemade cookies with a neighbor. Bake them with your preschooler, deliver them together. When you present them use a statement such as “Hello, Mrs. Smith. We baked these cookies and would like to share them with your family.” It’s helpful to disclose to others what you are trying to accomplish with your preschooler so they can help you with your endeavor. If your neighbor responds with “Well thank you for sharing! What a nice thing to do”. It will reinforce what you are trying to teach your preschooler.
Point out examples of sharing in books, television programs and other children you see at preschool and on the playground to your preschooler. Again, children will mimic what they see, so make sure they see lots of good examples of sharing. Likewise, point out poor examples of sharing so that your preschooler can compare the two outcomes, i.e., two children playing happily together vs. a tussle and a least one person crying. Discuss the differences between the two situations and ask your preschooler what he thinks about the children, how they feel and what the best example of sharing is and why.
Although it will undoubtedly take time like any other learned behavior, if given enough opportunities to practice and plenty of examples to learn from, your preschooler will be able to share successfully with the best of them!