Fostering Cooperative Play: Why We Prioritize Taking Turns Over Forcing Sharing
by Amber Rogers, Ed.S. NCSP Founder/Owner, Palmetto Preschool
Hello, dear parents! We all know those moments when our little ones are immersed in play at preschool or daycare, and the inevitable tussle over toys arises. Our instinct might be to urge them to share right away, believing we’re molding them into kind and sharing individuals. But here’s a fresh perspective that encourages us to pause and consider why we promote “taking turns” over forcing immediate sharing. Let’s dive into why experts are advocating for this approach to nurturing cooperation and fairness in young minds.
1. The Foundation of Cooperative Play
Cooperative play is like a beautiful puzzle where children learn to interact, communicate, and work together. However, it’s important to remember that our children are still developing their social skills. Forcing them to share might not necessarily lay the foundation for positive collaboration. Instead, we can guide them in understanding the importance of taking turns, promoting fairness, and finding joy in shared experiences.
2. The Value of Autonomy and Ownership
Children have a natural sense of ownership over their belongings. Forcing them to share everything on demand can lead to feelings of frustration and confusion. By emphasizing taking turns, we respect their autonomy and acknowledge their feelings about their possessions. This approach teaches them that they can be generous while also maintaining a sense of ownership and control over their belongings.
3. Cultivating Empathy and Perspective-Taking
Sharing is undoubtedly an act of kindness, but it’s equally important to cultivate empathy and perspective-taking. Instead of insisting on immediate sharing, we can engage our children in conversations about empathy. Encourage them to imagine how their friends might feel waiting for a turn or how they would feel in the same situation. This practice helps them connect with others’ emotions and perspectives, fostering deeper compassion.
4. Nurturing Patience and Emotional Regulation
In a world of instant gratification, teaching patience is a valuable life lesson. Encouraging children to take turns inherently requires patience as they wait for their chance. This process contributes to the development of emotional regulation – a crucial skill for navigating various situations throughout life. Rather than rushing them into sharing, we’re fostering self-control and emotional well-being.
5. Encouraging Effective Communication
Taking turns involves communication – children need to express their desire to play and wait their turn. This opens the door for conversations about their feelings and intentions. By prioritizing taking turns over forced sharing, we empower them to express themselves clearly and negotiate their needs with their peers, building essential communication skills.
As parents, our ultimate goal is to nurture well-rounded individuals who excel in cooperation, empathy, and effective communication. While it may seem unconventional to step back from enforcing immediate sharing, this approach aligns with contemporary insights into child development and social dynamics. By encouraging taking turns, we’re fostering a sense of ownership, empathy, patience, and effective communication. In doing so, we’re guiding our children toward becoming compassionate, considerate individuals who thrive in cooperative play and, ultimately, in life.