Blogging with Dr. Susan


Blogging with Dr. Susan

Turn Taking


Does this sound familiar: “Johnny, you share that toy with your friend” … or “Give your sister some of that – be a nice girl and share.” I hear these words, but if the child is under 3, I don’t believe a word of it! Children, in the first three years of life, do learn to give objects away briefly, to hang on and let go, to grasp objects and release them, but this is not social sharing.

            Whatever toddlers have in “hand” is viewed by them as being actually part of themselves. If a 20-month old does give up a toy, he is intensely watching where it goes, and in his mind, he is expecting an immediate (if not before) return. His arm goes out toward the object, his eyes follow every movement, he is alarmed if any delay occurs. This happens because children under 3 are egocentric, and focused on themselves as the center of every situation and event.

            The understanding parent should start to play give-and-take games, hide-and-seek games, and passing and receiving games, in order to give toddlers as young as one-year old experience in watching some person or some object go away and come back. Try this. “You take a ball and I’ll take a ball, and you give me yours and I’ll give you mine.” This is a good practice for voluntarily releasing objects and then getting them back without causing the toddler to panic!

            The important point is that children in the early years need to develop trust in adults and peers, and to feel secure, before they can learn to “take turns” and share.   In time and with secure attachment and understanding parents, family, and friends,  3- and 4-year-olds can learn to share. 

            Remember, I said “can learn to share.”   It takes parental patience to accomplish this valuable lesson, but it is worth it to see young children hand off toys, pass and receive toys or snacks or give up something they value, even for a few minutes!     Moms and Dads and teachers need to set a consistent example and be willing to give and take themselves….Children 3-6 years of age are copycats!   So be the kind of parent who shows empathy and gives up something they like, for another person! 

                                    Empathy and sharing are two of life’s most important                                                                          lessons!