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Sharing is Caring: 5 Techniques to Teach Kids the Art of Sharing

Reading time: 6 minutes
Written by
| Updated on
February 8, 2024
Reviewed by parenting expert
Two little brothers sitting on the grass, happily sharing cups of hot chocolate.

What you’ll learn

You want to find out how to teach kids to share? Discover efficient techniques to encourage children to practice the art of sharing!

Teaching kids the art of sharing is an important aspect of child development. But don’t worry, you are in good hands – we will provide a step-by-step explanation of how to teach kids to share, helping you understand the necessary actions and techniques involved. By incorporating these strategies into your parenting approach, you can nurture kindness, empathy, and cooperation in your little ones. Let’s dive into the world of sharing and discover how to teach kids to share.

Why do children struggle to share?

Are you wondering why it is so difficult for children to share? Sharing can be a challenging concept for young children to understand. Tantrums and possessiveness often arise when it comes to sharing. However, with proper guidance, children can improve their social interactions.

Children may struggle to share from various reasons like:

  • Developmental stage: Sharing is a complex social skill that develops gradually. Young children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, are still learning about ownership and have a limited understanding of empathy and other’s needs.
  • Ownership: Children have a natural inclination to possess and protect their belongings. Sharing requires them to let go of something they perceive as their own, which can be challenging.
  • Limited impulse control: Young children often have difficulty managing their impulses and emotions. They may struggle with waiting for their turn or feel a strong desire to hold onto things, making sharing more difficult.
  • Lack of social skills: Sharing involves social interaction, perspective-taking, and negotiating with others. Children who haven’t yet developed these skills may find it challenging to offer their belongings.
  • Fear of loss: Some children may worry that if they share, they won’t get their fair share or that there won’t be enough for them. 
  • Attention-seeking or sens of independence: In some cases, children may resist sharing as a way to gain attention or manifest their independence. They may view this as giving in.
  • Environmental factors: The social and cultural context in which a child grows up can also influence their sharing behavior. Factors like family dynamics, cultural norms, and peer influence can impact a child’s attitudes towards sharing.

You have to keep in mind that offering your belongings to someone is a skill that develops over time, and children at a young age may need guidance and positive reinforcement to learn how to do it effectively. By understanding the reasons behind their trouble sharing, parents and caregivers can use appropriate strategies to support the process of learning how to share.

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At what age should children learn to share?

Introducing the concept of sharing during early childhood lays a solid foundation for future social interactions in everyday life. Different developmental stages provide opportunities for teaching sharing adequately. Let’s break down the age groups and explore the significance of sharing skills at each stage:

1. Early Years: Building Foundations of Sharing (Ages 1-3)

During the toddler years, children begin to understand the idea of sharing. Parents can use simple language to talk about the concept of sharing and also about the positive feelings associated with it. In general, toddler learn a lot by imitating adults, so it’s important to be a good example.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh (2013), sharing behaviors begin to emerge in the first year of a child’s life through social interactions with adults. However, it is around 18 months of age that children start sharing more frequently and spontaneously without needing encouragement from adults.

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2. Preschool Years: Expanding Sharing Skills (Ages 3-5)

Preschoolers may face challenges when it comes to sharing toys, crayons, or playmates. Parents and teachers should set clear rules and teach taking turns. This helps children understand the importance of waiting for their turn and respecting others.

It would also be useful to create a sharing-friendly environment in child care or other preschool settings by providing ample opportunities for collaborative play and giving away resources.

3. School-age Years: Refining Sharing Abilities (Ages 6-12)

Older children may encounter difficulties when sharing responsibilities and resources. So you, as a parent, have to teach them advanced sharing skills during this stage. Kids this age should be encouraged to communicate and to be more empathetic. It’s also a good idea to promote teamwork by engaging children in group activities that require sharing and cooperation.

how to teach kids to share - A boy and a girl, school-age, sitting on a bench and looking at a boy's phone together.

How to Teach Kids to share: 5 techniques

To facilitate the teaching process, here are five specific techniques for teaching kids to share:

  1. Lead by Example: You should be a role model by showing sharing behavior and also expressing appreciation when your child shares.
  2. Emphasize Taking Turns: Teach children the concept of taking turns and waiting patiently for their chance to play with a toy or engage in an activity.
  3. Practice Sharing in Playdates: Arrange playdates where sharing becomes a natural part of the play experience, allowing children to learn and practice sharing with their peers. Also, encourage sharing icecream and snacks with siblings or friends.
  4. Positive Reinforcement: Acknowledge and express gratitude to your child when they engage in positive behavior or make efforts towards sharing. Remember to offer specific praise, such as “Thank you for sharing your toys with your friend. That was very kind of you!”. This positive reinforcement encourages their continued sharing behavior and boosts their self-confidence.
  5. Encourage Empathy: Help children develop empathy by discussing how sharing makes others feel happy and included.

How do you teach a stubborn child to share?

Teaching sharing to a stubborn child requires patience and consistency. Create a supportive environment for practicing it. Offer choices to empower them. Imagine a playtime scenario where your child has several toys they enjoy playing with. Instead of dictating which specific toy they should share, present them with a couple of options. Say, for instance, “You can choose to share either the colorful building blocks or the racing cars. Which one would you like to share?”

By giving them the opportunity to select the toy they feel most comfortable to give it away for a while, you empower them to make decisions based on their own preferences. This approach helps them feel a sense of ownership over the sharing experience, which can make it more enjoyable and less forced.

As your child makes their choice, offer positive reinforcement and acknowledge their decision-making skills. You might say, “Great job choosing! You picked the building blocks, and I’m sure your friend will have a fantastic time playing with them.”

Be consistent in setting expectations. Remember, it’s a gradual process tailored to their temperament. With patience and guidance, you can help your child develop the skill of sharing and nurture their social growth.

Conclusion

In conclusion, teaching kids the art of sharing is very important for their social development. From the early years to school-age, each stage presents opportunities to nurture sharing habits. It is important to lead by example and to practice taking turns. By teaching children to share, we equip them with essential life skills that promote positive relationships and contribute to a harmonious society.

Create a sharing-friendly environment at home, preschool, and in playdates. By investing in teaching sharing, we are nurturing the values of kindness and empathy in our children, preparing them to thrive in the world as considerate and compassionate individuals.

So let us embrace the motto that “Sharing is Caring” and guide our little ones on the journey of sharing, instilling in them the importance of empathy, cooperation, and the joy of giving. Together, we can create a sharing-friendly world for our children to grow and be happy.

You want to learn more about strategies regarding how to teach kids to share? Join our Free Online Masterclasses and gain practical insights in order to help your children develop important social skills! Need more parenting advice? Talk to Sophie, our parenting AI expert. Get personalized advice for your parenting challenges. Let Sophie guide you on your parenting journey!

Reference

Brownell, C. A., Iesue, S. S., Nichols, S. R., & Svetlova, M. (2012). Mine or Yours? Development of Sharing in Toddlers in Relation to Ownership Understanding. Child Development, 84(3), 906 – 920. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12009

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Discover our parenting expert

Patrick Ney
Lead Trainer at All About Parenting
Patrick Ney

Patrick Ney is a Neurodevelopmental Specialist who has been working with parents at All About Parenting for 5 years. He is husband to Maja and father to 2 beautiful daughters, Zofia and Mia. Patrick joined All About Parenting, determined to become a better parent before becoming a Certified Trainer. To date, he has run over 1000 workshops, events, and masterclasses for more than 100,000 parents.

Patrick is certified in a range of other methodologies, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Solution Focused Brief Therapy, and the HANDLE Methodology for neurodiverse children. He is a Certified DIR Floortime Practitioner and has been described as a ‘natural born play therapist.’ Patrick bases his work with parents on neuroscience, studying Applied Neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. Patrick has appeared as a TEDx speaker, and his first book, ‘The Storm: How To Stop Shouting At Your Kids’ will be published in Autumn 2022.

But more than anything else, Patrick is a father. His love for his daughters has led him on a journey to being a better dad for his girls and sharing that story with other parents. His work inspires thousands of parents to start learning parenting, and he shares both his successes and his many failures.

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