Teaching young children how to share starts with building habits in everyday life, but there are also sharing activities for kids that can help reinforce those vital social skills. I’m going to talk about the sharing debate and offer some fun games and techniques especially geared toward younger children who are learning to share.
Because… man. Debates in the world of parenthood have become so rampant that even a concept as simple as sharing is now constantly being debated.
I see both sides of the argument. On the one hand I consider sharing to be a social skill. It’s a great way to teach kids how to put others before ourselves.
On the other, I see how being made to give someone something just because they want it can reinforce the entitlement mindset so common in our culture.
I’ve thought a good bit on both perspectives and have come to a place of common ground that works best for my family and fits best with my personal values. I’ll share those views and offer some helpful tips and activities to help teach kids how to share.
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Originally published July 20, 2017
Teaching Kids How to Share: The Art of Sharing
In our house: we share. However, this sharing has stipulations attached:
First: The child who is wishing to play with the item another child is playing with must ask kindly. Kid 1 has a toy that Kid 2 wants. Kid 2 must nicely ask Kid 1 “can I play with the toy?”
Second: Not only must they ask kindly (no snatching!) but they must also add the phase “when you are finished” to their question.
Kid 2 doesn’t get to just have a turn at the toy because they feel like it. They aren’t entitled to that toy. They must ask. They must ask kindly. And they must wait for Kid 1 to be finished playing with it.
This teaches our children not to snatch things or whine or pitch a fit when they want something, especially when a younger siblings wants something from their older siblings. It also teaches them we must ask for what we want in life.
We can’t expect people to read our minds or know what we are wanting.
We can’t act out when we want something and expect others to then give us what we’re wanting either. We must ask and we must show kindness when we do.
It also teaches our children patience. They don’t get instant gratification of having the toy they want right when they want it. They have to wait to be able to play with the toy.
Third: When asked the question from Kid 2 of “Can I play with that toy when you are finished?” Kid 1 must answer with YES. They don’t get to hoard the toy forever. They can’t sneak off and hide it in their rooms just so Kid 2 doesn’t get a turn.
It’s important for our children to learn kindness and to have giving hearts, especially toward their siblings and family members.
Why This Sharing Exercise Works
Kid 1 obviously loves and enjoys that toy if they are currently playing with it so they should also find joy in seeing Kid 2 enjoy playing with it. We should all always do out best to find a way in disagreements where both parties walk away happy.
And Kid 1 getting to play with the toy and then getting to see Kid 2 enjoy that same toy is a win-win.
The typical result in our home is that both Kid 1 and Kid 2 leave the situation happy.
Kid 1 finishes playing with the toy and then hands it over to Kid 2 who often by that point isn’t even wanting to play with the toy any longer or has completely forgotten all about it!
Do you know what else often happens after this exchange? Kid 1 volunteers to go ahead and let Kid 2 play. They don’t feel forced into it, but they genuinely want to share. When we ask nicely, people respond nicely too 🙂
This is a great starting point for teaching kids how to share. When going through this exercise with my children I love that it allows me to give them BOTH praise.
I can praise Kid 2 for asking so nicely. Then I can praise Kid 1 for responding in love. They walk away feeling proud and happy and I walk away also feeling proud and happy too that one child asks and the other child shares.
It’s not just a win for each child, but a mama win too… and aren’t those the best kind?
Teaching Sharing Outside the Home
This sharing activity for kids is not something I do outside of our home. I don’t go up to stranger children and tell them they need to ask nicely before my kid will share.
Regarding children outside of our home? I try not to really bring any of our toys into those types of situations.
When we play at the playground, we leave toys at home. When we swim in a community pool, we don’t bring any pool toys with us.
As far as classroom settings go, I let the teacher decide how to handle sharing concerns among students. Usually there are games and activities during circle time that help reinforce the sharing concept, especially in early grades. Teachers can also moderate a small group and encourage sharing in and outside of friend groups.
All I can do is parent my children and hope that my methods flow out from our home and create role model children who naturally are kind, compassionate, and have giving hearts with everyone they meet!
Sharing Activities for Kids: Different Ways to Teach Kids to Share
Most of the time, the best way to teach young kids to share is in everyday activities and daily playtime. Anytime you can find a teachable moment, it’s usually a good idea to go for it. There’s no better way to teach a new skill then in real life situations, and simple actions are usually the easiest to understand!
But if you feel you need to reinforce those lessons, or a child is having a hard time grasping the concept of sharing, there are some great ideas for sharing activities for kids!
Family Board Games and Card Games
A fun way to teach sharing, cooperation, and teamwork is with board games, especially if the idea of the game involves losing cards or pieces on each turn. Examples include Monopoly Jr., Hungry Hungry Hippos, or The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game.
I have a whole post on our favorite family board games if you need more ideas!
Do Crafts or Paint Pictures Together
A fun activity that can help children learn to share is to have them make or draw something together. Whether they’re sharing markers and crayons or a glue stick and construction paper, craft supplies are an easy way to invite children to share and collaborate!
The Sharing Song
Jack Johnson, well known for his cute soundtrack to the Curious George movie, has a song from that album that specifically talks about sharing! It’s sweet, simple, and teaches a valuable lesson.
Play Pass the Ball
It’s a simple game but it’s effective because of how easy it is. A two year old can understand the concept and it teaches them not to hoard objects, even something as simple as a ball.
Do a Jigsaw Puzzle
This one is especially good for older children because they usually have the patience for jigsaw puzzles, but having them solve it with a sibling or parent teaches them collaboration and the value of working together to solve a problem.
Role Play Sharing Activities for Kids
Encouraging your young kids to use their imaginations to play “grocery store,” “restaurant,” “tea party,” or any other imaginative game that involves giving toys to others or passing things around is another great example of a simple activity
Sometimes sharing isn’t a physical object… it’s sharing credit for a job well done or a good deed as well!
What are your thoughts on sharing? How do you teach it in your home or are there any sharing activities for kids you recommend?
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