Helping Children Share and Take Turns

All Pre-K and Preschool teachers deal with children who don’t understand what it means to share and take turns. Sometimes children will have different interpretations of what it means to share because of what their families have taught them. Sometimes children think sharing means another child is supposed to hand over whatever they want because “you’re supposed to share”.

Helping Children Share and Take Turns

This post is part of the Summer Book Study on Challenging Behaviors. If you are new to the Summer Book Study, you can find out all the information over at the Introductory post by Pre-K Pages.

Here are some helpful tips on helping children share and take turns that I have gathered from two books (Amazon affiliate links):

Tips for Teaching Children to Share

Read books to children about characters who are sharing (or not sharing). Talk about the emotions of the characters and ask children what the characters could do to solve their problem.

Point out good sharing and turn-taking when you see it to reinforce appropriate behaviors. Children may not be aware they are using good social skills. You might say, “Sharing the play dough scissors made you both happy.”

Use puppets and dolls to teach children about sharing. Reenact common behaviors or an issue you noticed children dealing with that day. Have a discussion and talk about what the puppets are doing and saying. Ask children, how did this puppet feel? How did the other puppet feel? What could they do? Usually, some children in the group will have a good solution, but there are times when the class is stumped and you may have to guide them.

Be a good model. Be sure you don’t repeat the child’s actions that caused the conflict in the first place. That might sound like a no-brainer, but I think sometimes we teachers actually do this because its a quick resolution and we get distracted by the multiple things going on in our classroom. For example, if a child takes a toy away from another, and you take the toy away from both children, you have repeated the child’s action. Both children are then angry and the opportunity to teach positive social skills is lost. Another example: if we see a child who grabs the markers for themselves, we might react by grabbing the markers and moving them to the middle of the table where everyone can reach. However, this imitates the child’s actions. Instead, ask the child to put them back in the middle.

Use a timer for popular items. This gives children a visual and helps them understand how turn-taking works. A sand timer is great because children can see the passage of time. Another idea is to mark the clock with a dry erase marker and tell children that when the long hand reaches the mark, it will be their turn.

Use a waiting list for popular areas of the room, such as computers or the sensory table. You can have children sign up for the sensory table by writing their name on a list or placing their photo name card in a pocket chart by the center. I’ve also used a list of names, and had children make a checkmark by their name when they had a turn. I usually do a waiting list for my sensory table when I first change it to something new, but I keep the same sensory table as long as children are interested so everyone gets to spend as much time there as they wish. After a few days, the waiting list is no longer necessary.

When you see a conflict, try not to jump in too soon. Give children a chance to resolve their own conflicts. Sometimes we hinder them from practicing interaction skills. Give children opportunities to practice on their own (just be sure you are teaching these skills at group time).

What to do if you need to intervene

Validate and label children’s emotions: “You are frustrated because you want ___.” Use neutral words, such as “You both want to use that firetruck.”

Talk children through the conflict:

  • “What are you going to do?”
  • “Tell me some ideas.”
  • “How could you solve this conflict?”

Offer children more than one solution so they can choose one by themselves.

Teachers often tell children to “use your words”, but we need to make sure children know what words to use. Teach them words they can use, such as “Ask Miya if you can use the pink cape when she’s done.”

Teach children common class language to use when they want a turn. This will help all children, especially ESOL and special needs children. Examples:

  • “I want to play alone right now.”
  • “Can I have a turn when you’re done?”
  • “Can I use this if I give it right back?”

Help the child focus on another activity while they wait for a turn.

Reasons some children may have more difficulty sharing than others

They may be accustomed to adults solving their problems. One study showed that children whose mothers closely monitored their play with peers at home were more likely to be hostile and aggressive at school because they had not learned the skills to resolve their own conflicts.

Empathy is difficult for children who experience severe distress in the home.

Be sure to check out these two books on behavior for more information on helping children share as well as other topics.

How to Participate in the Book Study

We want everyone to participate in the book study. You don’t need a blog, just add your comments in the comment section below this post. Please share your tips on ways you’ve helped children share and take turns. What ideas will you add next year?

Follow the Book Study using this Guide here at PreKinders, and read the Book Study FAQ at Pre-K Pages to answer any questions you may have about how the book study works.

The next post in the Challenging Behaviors Book Study will be at Pre-K Pages on July 7, 2014 (there will be a short break during the week of Independence Day).

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