As we’ve undoubtedly all experienced, young children can find sharing and turn taking challenging, to put it mildly. It is hard for them to think about consequences and how their actions affect their friends’ feelings. Here are some tips from our Mom experience to help children learn, starting with a simple puppet show script to teach sharing and nurture their empathy.
Puppet shows and social stories can be very compelling tools to coach children about social and life skills as I discussed in this recent blog article. This sample puppet script uses showing the “wrong” way of behaving as an example to inspire children to think about how they can do things differently.
A sample puppet show script on sharing and turn taking:
Use two different animal or child puppets with a small toy or game and show them first playing nicely quickly moving to getting into a silly fight:
Butterfly Puppet: Let’s play with the toy cars!
Ladybug Puppet: I like the red one. [Have the ladybug puppet pick up the red car. You can replace car with whichever toy you have handy that your child loves.]
Butterfly Puppet: Me too!
Ladybug Puppet: You take the blue one
Butterfly Puppet: No, I want the red one, you take the blue one. [Have the Butterfly Puppet grab the red car from the Ladybug Puppet]
Ladybug Puppet: Hey, that’s not nice! I want the red car, give it back!
Butterfly Puppet: I like the red car, you play with another one.
Ladybug Puppet: I don’t want to play with you. That’s not nice!
Ask your child: Why do you think the Ladybug Puppet got mad? What do you think the Butterfly and Ladybug could do to play together better and not fight?
In preparation for a play date at your home:
- Sit down at eye level with your child and talk about how wonderful it is that their friend is coming over. Encourage them to remember about taking turns and asking their friend what they want to play with.
- Ask your child what they’d like to play with their friend. Think together of a plan that includes some toys/games and any activities like arts and crafts. And of course allowing for what your child’s friend wants to do.
- The younger the child, the simpler I’d keep my coaching. As they get older add more to your coaching, such as being sure to thank their friend for coming over at the end of the play date.
- If your child has some special toys or games that will be especially hard for them to share or take turns with, put them away to make things easier.
During the play date:
Help start the play date off smoothly by greeting the visiting child and, depending on how old the children are, asking which toy the child would like to play with. Once underway, try not to hover. Resist jumping in unless absolutely necessary, so they have the chance to play and work out conflict together. If you do need to intervene, play the role of facilitator helping them come up with a solution for themselves rather than telling them what to do.
For example you could say, “it sounds like you both want to play with the same toy. What do you think you should do?” If one child responds, “I want to play with it the whole time!” you could say, “Hmmm, does that seem like it would work?” Using humor may help children think beyond their own immediate needs.
Sometimes if children are having a really hard time sharing, a change of activity or scenery might be just the ticket.
What strategies have you found most helpful in teaching your children about sharing and being a good friend?