Whether it’s a toy, game, stuffed animal, or anything for that matter, we have all been witness to the dramatic increase of an object’s value in the eyes of a child, once someone else is playing with it. Trains with broken wheels, ratty stuffed animals, even a broken crayon, can instantly become a coveted object that your child must have at any cost, once they see a younger sibling or peer playing with it. I have seen many battles between children who are having difficulty sharing. How many times have you tried to remediate these sharing challenges with reminders to, “please share”, only to find yourself repeating this request over and over again to no avail? It’s frustrating….I know!
When children are fighting over an item, oftentimes, it is not really the item they are seeking, but the feeling of control they experience when they gain access to it. How many times has your child fought tooth and nail for a toy, only to toss it aside once they get their hands on it? So how do you give your children a sense of control, while still helping them share with others?
Here are the steps to "The Sharing Plan", a useful strategy to motivate and teach children to share.
Gain Control of the Item. When I see students having a hard time with sharing, I calmly tell them I am going to hold the item, so that we can make a sharing plan together.
State the Problem. “It looks like you both want to play with the same toy”.
Talk About the Plan. I invite them to help me solve the problem, by asking them for some sharing ideas. I may offer suggestions such as: using a timer to take turns, picking out of a hat to decide who gets to use the toy first, finding a way to play together, dividing materials in half, etc. Allowing the children to choose their sharing plan gives a sense of control & also provides them with the knowledge and skills needed to share and play with their peers.
Give Positive Social Praise. I give the kids a ton of praise for coming up with such a wonderful solution. Giving the positive reinforcement helps them know exactly what they did right in this situation and helps them feel good about their contribution to the solution.
Keri is the founder and facilitator of Purposeful Play, a social skill play date service for children. She is also a certified preschool special education teacher in the Franklin Lakes, NJ school district. Keri has dual degrees in Early Childhood Special Education and Early Childhood General Education. She holds NJ certifications for Preschool-3, K-6, and Teacher of Students with Disabilities. Keri has extensive experience teaching both general and special education children as a classroom teacher, an Early Interventionist, at therapeutic social skill summer camps, through tutoring, and through her social skill play date service.
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