Learning to share and take turns  

Sharing is a skill that takes years for young ones to develop, but something that parents can help guide and support from early on.

Learning to share and take turns takes time to develop and doesn’t always come naturally for some. The concept of having to wait can be hard, especially for impulsive toddlers and pre-schoolers. 

It’s important to note that most toddlers still don’t really understand what sharing is. They’re unable to see things from another’s point of view and are only just starting to learn to regulate their emotions. It’s usually around 3 years that children start to comprehend that sharing is the “fair” thing to do. But even then, they can still struggle with the concept of having to give something up or wait their turn. And if that child is feeling tired and grumpy then you can expect a very firm stance that everything is theirs and that’s the end of that! So staying patient and being understanding in those moments is key 

 Learning to share is a vital life skill that helps kids to: 

  • Develop a concept of fairness 
  • Take turns
  • Make and keep friends 
  • Play cooperatively 
  • Compromise 
  • Negotiate  
  • Develop resilience and cope with disappointment 
  • Develop and practice self-regulation 

It is ok not to share sometimes – even as adults we have things we don’t share. Sharing is not fair if you have to give up what you are doing because someone wants what you have. This can lead to sharing being something that has a negative association attached to it. Instead, allowing kids to finish their play and then encourage them to share the item is a great way reduce conflict and and teach fair play.

 So what can we do?

 To develop sharing and turn taking skills young children need: 

  • Examples of good sharing and turn taking throughout everyday life 
  • Plenty of time and opportunity to practise sharing and turn taking 
  • Praise and encouragement for good waiting and sharing 

 Tips to help develop sharing 

 Things that help develop sharing and turn taking: 

  • Point out good sharing in others 
  • Give lots of praise and special attention when they do share and take turns 
  • Play games that involve sharing and turn taking and using words to reinforce these behaviours. Simple things like “mummy’s turn now”, “your turn”, “you share the red blocks, I’ll share the green blocks”  
  • Share picture books and even better, share books that include sharing as part of the storyline 
  • Talk about sharing. For example, if other children are coming to your house for a play discuss with your child beforehand that they will need to share their toys. Ask them what toys they might like to play with and if there’s something special that they don’t want touched and offer to put it away. 
  • Playgroup provides young children with lots of opportunities to share and take turns. Again, talking to your child about taking turns and sharing prior to arriving is also helpful.

Remember, not wanting to share, wait or take turns is all normal development for kids under 3 years. It’s a concept that young ones are still learning to grasp and requires them to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings which is difficult for them to do at that age. 

Playgroup is the perfect place to learn and practice sharing and turn-taking.

Want to know more? Our play ideas resources talk about learning to share across different age groups including baby, toddler, child and also for the playgroup environment.