Child Development 101: Thank You for Sharing
Parents who struggle with teaching their toddlers how to share can breathe easy. A recent study found that while younger children know sharing is the right thing to do, it may take them a few years to put theory into practice.
Research shows that sharing increases dramatically between ages 6 and 9. Scientists attribute this behavior to kids’ developing ability to sympathize with children they don’t know, and the desire to be socially accepted, behaviors known as “other-regarding.”
These social abilities are not fully developed in toddlers, however, which makes the rallying cry of “Mine, all MINE!” so common among 2- and 3-year-olds, who are still very much focused on their own needs. Not surprisingly, knowing that sharing is right was not enough to motivate toddlers who participated in the study to part with extra scratch-and-sniff stickers that the researchers had given them.
Learning to share is important because it helps children develop a sense for fairness, cooperation and caring for others, according to the study. So while toddlers may not be willing to give up an extra cookie to another child, there are things parents, preschool teachers and caregivers can do to support a child’s developing ability to sympathize with other kids.
First, help the child cultivate a sense of self-confidence by engaging with them on a regular basis. If a child feels connected to her parent or caregiver, she will be less likely to find security in objects such as toys.
Making a game out of sharing can reinforce toddlers’ knowledge that sharing is a good thing. In a classroom setting, encouraging children to share crayons and stickers during an art project can highlight the message that fun things can happen when they share.
Numerous children’s picture books have been written about sharing, and reading some favorites aloud to children can provide colorful examples of what it means to share. And remember that if a toddler is hesitant to share, there’s nothing wrong with him – be patient and set good examples of sharing behavior.