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Sharing: Development and Tips

A rewarding experience in the eyes of parents is to watch a child master stages of development. The acquisition of sharing habits is an important one. A child who chooses to not share creates disruption for children and caregivers.

Research defines sharing to include three parts: item(s), giving action, and return, (giving) action. Practically, the process doesn't always include a return (as is candy, cookies). Success within young children depends on their readiness, the amount of things available for sharing, and adult involvement.

Children begin sharing habits when they give an adult something that the adult returns to them. This gesture takes place in infancy and continues to be the foundation for other sharing actions.

As toddlers reach 18-24 months, sharing becomes more deliberate. Upon learning more about himself, the toddler will reach out to others.

By 4-5 years, a child recognizes wants and needs of others. He has also developed a sense of ownership, feeling more in control, and 'loans' his possessions more readily. Girls more likely share with friends than acquaintances. This is not the case with boys.

When supplies are abundant, children make more effort to share. Their opportunity to participate is less threatened. Also structure settings to include activities which promote cooperation. Puzzles, blocks, building sets, several of the same toy, old clothes, hats, shoes, large pieces of paper for community drawing are all good choices which encourage children to talk as they play. Books are another device for promoting sharing. Promoting sharing within a story provides a good role model for children. Many stories contain examples within the story. These focus on sharing: Mine! A Sesame Street Book About Sharing, L. Hayward; Mine, Yours, Ours, B. Albert Jr. & L. Axeman (Henderson, 1991, Working Mother); Mine's the Best, C. Bonsall. Using a story is less threatening for the child who might be singled out for inappropriate behavior.

Adult Involvement
Devise learning environments which make sharing a necessity. Settings requiring sharing provide children with the chance to respect the needs of others.

Avoid the temptation to show favoritism. Children are quick to detect that they are not being treated equally.

Entrust them with your willingness to share. Children become more open when you, too, share with them.

Reinforce their positive behaviors. Sharing is something you learn to last for a lifetime.

Reference: Sharing patterns: How they develop in young children