Child psychologists say that preschoolers do not really understand the concept of sharing. They look at sharing as an act where grown-ups take away things dear to them to give to others. This makes them feel threatened and insecure. While feelings of empathy and compassion towards others would gradually develop over time, here are a few pointers on how to lay the foundation for the same.
1. Tell stories
Read aloud stories with colourful pictures that are specifically written to teach the concept of sharing to children. Every time you read out such a story to your child, explain to her the concept of sharing expressed in the story. You can also create your own stories taking inspiration from real-life incidents of individuals sharing things dear to them.
2. Play games
Play games that allow you and your child to take turns. Start with games like passing a ball back and forth, which allow you and your child to take turns. With time, you can include more such games. Simple and easy board games that facilitate turn-taking are also a good option. If your child has a sibling, involve him in such activities to help build camaraderie and teach the siblings how to share with each other.
3. Set an example
Let your little one watch and learn! Share with your child whatever you eat by offering it to her as well. Emphasise on the word ‘share’ when you do so. Together with your child, wrap a small gift to give to the little one who comes to your play date. You can also take your child out to visit orphanages and old age homes, and offer the inmates food and clothing. Older children at home can also set examples by sharing their belongings with their younger sibling.
4. Encourage sharing
Make the process of sharing a part and parcel of your everyday life. If your little one is interested in painting and paints a picture, encourage him to paint a similar one and gift it to his grandparents or friends. When it comes to cutting a cake or pizza, or dividing a bar of chocolate, teach your child to apportion it in such a way that everyone gets a piece.
5. Provide opportunities
Play dates are a wonderful opportunity to practise sharing. Talk to your child beforehand about things he would like to share with his playmates and give him only those things. Generously praise your child every time he indulges in an act of sharing. Applaud other children who also do the same.
While its wonderful for your preschooler to share his belongings, there are things he does not need to share with anyone. Your child may have a favourite stuffed toy or a set of cars that he may be extremely possessive about. Put away such toys in a special box so that he can play with them when he is alone. By doing so, you will send out the message to your child that you respect his desire of keeping his favourite items safe from others. It will also teach him to adopt the same attitude towards other’s belongings when he goes on his next play date.
Sharing is caring. So, let us teach our little ones to be more empathetic and reach out to others right from the start.
Anitha Bennett is a freelance author who has written books for children from preschool to preteen levels. She also conducts workshops for parents, teachers and children.