Taking turns can be a very difficult concept for children, especially toddlers. Usually for two reasons:
Firstly: any toy that they are holding/playing with (or even any toy that they can see!) is genuinely viewed by them as their own toy. Therefore, they don’t think it’s fair to have to give it up.
And before you start thinking this is ridiculous, try and think about it from their point of view: imagine you invited one of your friends over to your house and they started playing with your TV, your DVD player or even your mobile phone- not only would it be socially unacceptable but it would also be quite upsetting. Especially if then you were told you HAD to let them play with these items.
Secondly: every toy that another toddler is playing with- automatically looks 100x more appealing that their current toy!
Again- before you give them a hard time, remember this is the same for us. That new car that your friends have got or the extension your neighbours are building- all look more exciting than our own. Hence the phrase ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’.
Now although I’m saying don’t give toddlers a hard time over the whole taking turns and sharing thing- I whole heartedly believe it is an important skill that they need to learn. And like any skill there are ways as parents and teachers we can help them.
So here are my top tips for getting children to take turns/share. If you have any others please do email/comment/tweet.
- Understand that it’s not an easy task. As I’ve just said, children genuinely find it hard and so do many adults. So being patient and having an understanding of their point of view will help them.
- Give time limits and build the time duration up. Maybe start with ‘let your sister play with that toy for 10 seconds then you can have it for 10 seconds’ then over a week or so build up the amount of time you’re expecting them to allow someone else to have it for, until it become a reasonable amount of time. Often getting the child to count (if they are able to) themselves helps give them control and something to keep them occupied whilst they wait.
- Make taking turns into a game or play a game that involves taking turns. There are so many games that involve taking turns that could be used to help children from pretty much every single board game ever invented, to hide and seek. Make taking turns something that you do regularly during play and it will become less of a big deal.
- Swap toys/Take toys with you- often the most difficult situations of sharing/taking turns arise when playing with other children at their houses. As, like I explained, it’s very difficult for children to allow someone into their space to play with all of their toys. One way of helping is to bring 1 of your child’s toys with you when you go to another child’s house. Not for your child, but for the host’s child- so they have something different to play with and to make it fair. As whilst your child is riffling through all their toys, they are playing with your child’s toy.
- Praise- as with anything, ‘catch them when are being good’. If they share well as take turns make sure you praise them! And be very specific with your praise so they know what they have done that’s so good.
- Model taking turns- as parents we take turns a lot more than you first realise. Make sure children are aware that we too take turns and point out these real life situations. For example: mummy and daddy taking it in turns to drive, to watch the TV, to have a shower, to play with the children etc. If you model it well and show them through example why it’s important they are more likely to understand.