Smart Strategies: Teaching Children to Share and Take Turns

February 2, 2017

Learning to share and take turns while playing can be challenging for young children – especially those under six – but it is a vital skill that they need to pick up during the early years.

According to AskDrSears, sharing teaches children about empathy and gives them the ability to see things from the viewpoints of others. Sharing also teaches children about compromise and helps them learn that if they share what they have with others, this good deed will come back to them one day. When they share, children learn to take turns for play-learn situations and cope with disappointments – two very important life skills that will get them ahead in life.

When can we expect children to share?

During the early years, children are still learning to make sense of the concept of sharing as they learn more about themselves and their favourite possessions. Here are some guidelines to help you through when teaching toddlers and pre-schoolers to share and take turns:


At this stage, toddlers believe that the world revolves around them and everything that comes into their sight belongs to them. Although putting forward the consequences for not sharing does little to get your toddler to learn to share, with encouragement and practice, he/she will slowly get there.

By 3 years old, your toddler will start to understand the concept of taking turns – but tantrums are still inevitable, especially if another child takes a toy that he/she was eyeing.


While most pre-schoolers understand the concept of sharing in the simplest form, some of them might not be keen to put this knowledge into action, and can be impatient when it comes to taking turns. You can develop your pre-schooler’s sharing skills further by praising her for taking turns (especially when she does it well) and encouraging fair play. If she still refuses to share, do talk to her about how she will feel if her toy was taken away or if she is denied a turn in playing. Talking to your pre-schooler about other people’s feelings will help her see things from another person’s view, and this is an important skill to have in making friends.

See also: 5 Ways to Ease Pre-school Separation Anxiety in Your Child

How to teach children to share and take turns

There are various tools and methods you can use when teaching children to share and take turns. Some of these include:

1. Showing a good example

Children learn best from observing the actions of others, especially mum and dad.  So, take the chance to model good behavior when it comes to sharing and taking turns. For example, you can show how you share your favourite snacks with the whole family during movie nights at home, or how mum and dad take turns to use the bathroom.

2. Playing sharing games

Fun activities such as games help children learn and understand a concept better than drilling the basics at them. Here are some fun sharing games that you can play with your children to teach them about sharing and taking turns:

Share Daddy/Mummy – Place one child on each side of your lap and do fun things like letting each of them have a go at “riding the rocking horse”. This teaches children to share a special person in their lives.
Share Your Favourite Things – Give your child his/her favourite snack or toy, and get him/her to share them with everyone in the room. The message to convey here is that sharing is a way of life and that it spreads joy and happiness to those around us.
Play family games such as “Snap”, memory card games or “Pop up pirate” where everyone needs to wait his/her turn to have a go. This gives them some first-hand experience about sharing the game with everyone in the family and the value of taking turns.

See also: Social Skills for Children – An Age-By-Age Guide

3. Introducing time-sharing

When children are having problems sharing a toy, you can use a timer to stop the squabbling and ensure fair play. Here’s how to use the time-sharing method:

Think of a number in your head and get each child to choose a number
The one who chooses the closest number you thought of gets to play with the toy first
Set the timer for 2 minutes
When the times buzzes, the toy goes to the next child for the same amount of time

If your children still refuse to share after explaining the time-sharing method to them, your last resort is to put the toy back in its original place and explain to them that nobody gets to play with it until they learn to share. Expect some sulking and protesting initially, but once they realise that they are better off sharing the toy, they will learn to cooperate and come to a compromise.

4. Bringing toys to playdates

If your children have problems sharing his/her toys during playdates, do ask the playmate’s parent to bring some toys along. Children, being intrigued with toys that are new to them, will soon realise that they must share their own toys in order to have a go at their playmate’s toys. Similarly, if your child is going to a playmate’s house for a playdate, do pack some toys for him/her to bring along and share with the other children.

Written by Justina Goh

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