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Dr. Heather’s Super Sharing Secrets

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | December 8, 2011 | Child Development

You’ve been there: Several parents get their preschoolers together for a playdate. As the grown-ups get down to coffee and chatting, the kids get down to play. All too soon, you’re pulled away from some much-needed adult conversation by Sharing Gone Bad – the sound of your child screeching, “Mine! It’s mine!” So much for relaxed adult coffee and conversation.

Yes, it’s embarrassing that your usually well-behaved child is hoarding toys and fending off potential playmates with shrieks. It’s also a bummer that your nice adult time to catch up with friends has been ruined. But I’m here to tell you that if you expect your young child to easily and willingly share, you might as well expect him or her to drive the family car to the playdate too.

Why It’s So Difficult

Let’s face it. Sharing is tough – even for adults. And kids are way less equipped than we are to be good at sharing. That’s because their brains simply haven’t developed the fancy bells and whistles that are needed to perform such an advanced task. Think about it: Sharing requires patience, planning and empathy. These are all controlled by the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. You read that right – 25.

Does that mean you have to give up on coffee and playdates? Not by a long shot. Each and every opportunity your child has to share is one more important piece of cumulative learning. And we know that more practice sharing at a young age leads to better learning – and happier kids – later on. So next time you arrange a playdate, plan to spend the first 15 minutes settling the kids into the situation. Make sure everyone knows everybody, put away any “precious” toys and help out as the play gets going. Praise any sharing you see and help others wait their turn. A little advance planning will go a long way. (And one day, you just might be able to finish your cup of coffee with your friends.)

To help, we’ve created weekly projects for you and your child to work on together. All month long, we’ll be posting fun tips and activities to help strengthen sharing. We’ll post four awesome “create your own” stories and adorable coloring pages – with sharing lessons built right in – for you to print out, personalize with your child and then upload to show off to our Facebook community.

Suzy learns how nice it feels when someone shares with her – especially when she needs a friend. As you go through the story, ask your child:

  • What would have happened if Suzy’s friend didn’t offer her part of her lunch?
  • Has a friend ever helped you?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • Have you ever helped a friend?
  • How did that make your friend feel?

Don’t forget to come back every week through the month of December for more. We can’t wait to see YOUR child’s stories!