A little while back I was contacted by the brains behind WILF Books, a new children's book sharing service. The idea is simple but ingenious - a monthly subscription service to which users donate unwanted and unloved books, for them to be sorted, boxed up, and sent out for individual children according to their personal preferences. I would have loved this so much as a kid, and I'm really pleased to be featuring a guest post from the team on the importance of sharing today.
Sharing is a super vital life skill, isn’t it? It teaches us how to cooperate with one another in our everyday lives. It teaches us about compromise, that if we give just a little to others, we can also get a little of what what we'd like too. It teaches us about negotiation, and how to cope with disappointment. It’s a fundamental human value that makes us who we are.
We all recognise its importance, but how can we help our children to learn about sharing?
Well, first and foremost, we think it starts with you. Monkey see, monkey do. Children learn so much just from watching what their parents do. You’re their role model, and when you model good sharing and *taking turns* in your family, it gives children a really great example to follow. You, as a parent, can always facilitate and encourage sharing in every day life, and here are five simple ways through which to do that:
- Allow them to see it in others: Recognise it when your child sees another child sharing. There’s nothing more beautiful (and cute!) than watching children share and play nicely together, a little bit like grownups do. You can say things like: ‘Woah, wasn’t your friend sharing her toys really well, that was really lovely of her."
- Nurture it through play: It’s really fun to play little exercises with your child that involve turntaking, sharing and inclusive participation. Talk your child step by step through the process of sharing, saying things like, ‘It’s your turn, then it’s my turn; you share the brown bricks with me, and I’ll share the pink bricks with you, I’ll play with Buzz whilst you play with Woody".
- Pile on the praise: When the proud moment comes, and you see your child attempting to take turns and share, be sure to lay on the praise, attention and all round goodwill. This is super important, and with consistent practice and positive reinforcement, will become second nature in the minds of your little ones. For example, you could say things like "that was really lovely the way that you let Charlie play with your helicopter, great sharing!"
- Have ‘the talk’ (not that talk!): Talk to your child about sharing before she goes on playdates or trips with other friends. Reinforcing before, during and after playdates can really help build their mental map for sharing. For example, you could say, ‘Rahul is almost here and you’ll need to share some of your toys when he gets here. Let’s have a think about what he'd like to play with, shall we?’ You can also talk to your child about sharing before all possible interactions with other children, like nursery, preschool or big school.
- Allow them to ‘own’ their sharing: Create an environment and culture that encourages your child to want to share.
There’s sharing in every day life, and then there’s developing a sense of sharing amongst the wider society and community. In the globalised world within which we live, it’s more important than ever to be able to share beyond our own personal boundaries and connect with those from other cultures and backgrounds. By nurturing this connection, when a child reaches preschool or school age where community, creativity and play are championed and they begin to interact with people of new cultures, they’ll be able to build more complex relationships with other children with the fundamental foundation of fairness at the heart. Imperative in today’s world.
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