Tag Archives: social development

A Guide to Sharing

Sharing is a fundamental social skill that is developed in childhood and lasts long into our lives. Not every child will have the same inclination to share, and that’s alright! No matter your child’s disposition, sharing can be taught. But what does healthy sharing look like? Here are some useful tips for helping children learn to share. 

Image from Show Me How To Be a Friend, by J.A. Barnes. Available on our website.

Show Respect and Empathy

At the root of sharing is respect. One must respect another person’s feelings, space, and belongings. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, at around three-and-a-half, children begin to understand the concept of sharing. (The groundwork for teaching children about sharing can be laid for children as young as two.) 


Developmentally, toddlers process their own wants and needs ahead of the wants and needs of others. This often makes sharing a strenuous and anxiety-inducing free-for-all as no one wants to be left out or left behind. Empathize with your child and talk to them about being conscious of other people’s feelings to ensure everyone has a good time. 


Model Positive Behaviors

One way children learn is through examples: watching your behaviors will set a foundation for the way they interact with others. Demonstrate effective, respectful communication for your child. For example, to your partner or parent, say, “Of course you can borrow my big cooking dish! Could you please return it to me by Tuesday?” Firsthand examples of polite communication as both a borrower and lender will underscore the importance of respect.


When you borrow an item from a friend or loved one, make sure to return it better than you found it: wash it, for example. And always say thank you! 


By modeling positive behaviors, you will inspire your child’s own actions. Let your little copycat take note of the way you navigate lending to and borrowing from your partner, parents, neighbors, friends, etc. They will see it is nothing to worry over! 


Establish Rules and Boundaries

Ground rules will make the process of sharing feel not so scary. Helping children feel secure in sharing situations will give them comfort in being both a borrower and a lender. Create a plan if there is a forthcoming playdate and your child doesn’t like to share a certain toy. Set the toy aside before the playdate and talk with your child about letting a friend take a turn with the toy. 

Image from Show Me How To Be a Friend, by J.A. Barnes. Available on our website.

Sharing is also an early form of establishing boundaries. Let your child know they are allowed to set “terms” on how they share. If your child is resistant to lending a sibling or peer their favorite teddy, show them it is okay to offer an alternative option. For instance, your child might say, “This stuffed animal is my favorite. Would you be okay with this one?” If the alternative is not desired, your child’s next step can be to say, “Okay, but I’d like to have my stuffed animal back in ten minutes [or a time they feel comfortable with].” Letting your child know that time limits and other ground rules are okay for sharing will help ease their anxieties; it will eventually become second nature.


When children feel anxious about sharing they may use mean words or brash actions, such as grabbing or bartering. Intervene immediately if you observe these behaviors in your child’s interactions with siblings or peers. Take a mindful moment with them to just breathe, resettle, and talk about the benefits of sharing with others. 


Consume Good Content

Reading and consuming content that illustrates good sharing is another vital step in fostering this lifelong skill. At this age, looking to literary role models is a good step in presenting the idea of sharing to your little one! When you notice an example of good sharing in a film or TV show, point it out to your child. Having onscreen role models and strong media examples of sharing will give your child confidence in their own sharing experiences.

Image from Show Me How To Be a Friend, by J.A. Barnes. Available on our website.

Sharing is a form of love: we share with others in order to continue fostering genuine connections. Your child will benefit from good sharing skills, now and in the future.

Stimulating Social Development in the Time of COVID-19

From Madison’s Patriotic Project, written by Dr. Vanita Braver and illustrated by Carl DiRocco.

Socialization is a critical component of young children’s development. Finding opportunities for safe interaction during COVID-19, however, can be a challenging task. After nearly a year of social distancing to mitigate the spread of the virus, many are struggling with pandemic fatigue. During this difficult time, children can grapple with disrupted routines, emotional challenges, and feelings of instability.


Safely socializing within a “bubble” or “pod” is an option that some families have chosen, but there are ways to connect with people outside of this group. Implementing new and different socialization strategies can help children develop emotional intelligence and relationship-building skills while feeling less isolated.


How does socialization impact children’s development?

Interacting with others in school, family, and social environments helps children to understand behavioral cues and relationships. By hearing and participating in conversations, they are able to build speech and language skills. This communication provides exposure to new and varied outlooks. Having the opportunity to interact with diverse perspectives is a crucial element in developing an understanding of inclusivity.


Utilizing Technology to Stay Connected

In-person gatherings may be limited, but video calls can keep children connected to others. Virtual meetings with classmates, friends, and extended family members allow children to stay connected to parts of their routine that have been disrupted. They also offer a sense of normalcy and combat fatigue.


There are many accessible online activities and games available for children too. However, it is important to be cognizant of screen time (especially in the era of virtual learning).


Encouraging Children to Play (and Partake in Playtime)

Playtime promotes critical thinking skills for young children. They engage their senses of creativity and imagination. It can also be educational and fun. Challenges like puzzles or card games help develop math skills and spatial awareness.


Another benefit of playtime is that it creates valuable bonding opportunities with those in a child’s bubble. Instead of neighbors or classmates, toys—such as stuffed animals—can provide companionship during indoor play.

From Let’s Play Outside, written by Pat Rumbaugh and illustrated by Daniel Nakamura.

Playing outside allows children to stay active and explore new environments. Organizations like Let’s Play America aid in planning virtual and outdoor play events that can safely bring communities together.


Establishing a Pen Pal

Children can write letters to their loved ones or friends, thus developing communication skills and fostering connections. Writing to a pen pal is an activity that parents and children can even engage in together! Parents can stay informed and assist children with language and grammar. An added benefit is that children can work on their handwriting.


Having a pen pal creates personal communication with someone outside of a child’s immediate bubble. Many people also feel handwritten messages are more meaningful than virtual ones. This exchange can be an especially great option for grandparents or family members who live far away.


Reading SEL Stories

Reading books with children that contain social and emotional learning (SEL) messages is a way to promote development at home. SEL stories feature important themes such as responsibility, compassion, self-awareness, and inclusion. Exposure to them benefits students in school and in interactions with others. Families can read SEL books together and discuss significant takeaways.


In-person socialization is not the only opportunity to promote relationship-building, behavioral understanding, and emotional intelligence among children. These are just a few strategies that can introduce variety, stimulate development, and reduce feelings of isolation in uncertain times.