A simple strategy for helping young children to accept turn taking and sharing

Children Turn Taking and Sharing

Anyone who has spent time with young children will know that turn taking and sharing are not competencies we're usually born with but rather social skills we learn to accept or at least tolerate and hopefully come to appreciate as we get older. Simple sharing strategies and turn taking strategies can be readily introduced to speed up this learning process.

Sharing toys, access to the tv or computer or finishing up your time with a favourite game so someone else can take turns can all frequently be the causes of complaints, disputes and indeed full blown tantrums from young children or children with special needs who can have difficulty understanding or accepting such realities of everyday family life.This strategy also works well if you just want to teach your child to accept limits about how long they can spend at a given activity such as watching tv or playing computer games etc. We all know how difficult that can be :-)

Children Sharing: At least i don't have to share my straw!!


Children Taking Turns and Sharing

When we as parents, guardians or carers are inconsistent about how we respond in these situations we only serve to reinforce the challenging behaviours which tend to follow.

By providing simple strategies that work to help children to see and ultimately accept that, for example, certain external factors are dictating their access to items of contention, we can go a long way to reducing the usual confrontations that can occur both between individual children and between the children and the responsible adults .

Difficulties are reduced or minimised as the child, with time (and consistency on your part), comes to accept that it is not their behaviour that is controlling the situation but a pre-established system that dictates or indicates their access to an item or activity or whose turn it is etc. regardless of who puts up the biggest resistance or the most forcefull objections to the turn taking or sharing in question.

Below is an example of this simple turn taking strategy which aims to both help young children to better accept that taking turns and sharing is an inevitable part of life and also in the process hopefully give us adults a slightly more peacefull life to boot. I have seen this be very successful on many occasions including with my own children so i'm sharing it here with genuine faith in its effectiveness. I first used this with great and rapid success with my eldest daughter when she tried to assert her absolute control of the television as a toddler and would go into complete tantrum meltdown when it was time to turn off her favourite cartoon or show or even just a song she liked listening and dancing too.

The example below is based around sharing access to the TV as i believe this to be a common challenge that most families have experienced at some time particularly (although not exclusively) with young children. The same logic can be extended to sharing or turn taking in relation to most other items or activities.

Sharing/Turn Taking Strategy (e.g. TV)

  • First you need to get some small pictures or images to represent the individuals involved.Each child should have an image that represents them.You needn't be too fussy here, if you don't have pictures you're happy to cut up just go online and print off some pictures that represent a little girl or boy, mammy and daddy etc. You may also include the child's name under the picture.

JAMIE | Source
Velcro Hooks
Velcro Hooks
Velcro Loops
Velcro Loops
  • Cut the pictures out, if you have access to a laminator you can laminate them for some added durability and then put a small piece of velcro on the back of each picture as well as onto the item being shared or used. In a fix i suppose you could use some type of tape or blue tac etc but the velcro works best and is really durable
  • Note: In case you don't know velcro comes in two types - hooks and loops - don't worry they come together in strips when you buy velcro - you just need to remember to use the opposite types on the pictures and the items in order for them to stick together

  • Initially it would be best to decide when to use this turn taking strategy or on set times for your child/each child to have access to/control of the TV etc. Later when your child understands how the system works you will be able to allow him or her unscheduled access to the TV by just informing or agreeing to him having access and then placing his symbol on the TV for instance
  • When it is his time/turn you should inform him and place his picture or name card onto the corner of the TV or item of contention
  • As an additional strategy to aid your child to transition you could, just before his time is up on the item or activity in question give him or her warnings that their TV time is coming to an end. Initially you could do this by providing 5, 3 and 1 minute warnings to allow them time to better accept this transition e.g. 5 minutes before his/her TV time is to end you should inform him/her by saying something like “Jamie, you have 5 minutes TV left” you could also show him a transition card with the no.5 on it as an additional visual cue. These additional cues can be very helpful for young children or children who are very absorbed in what they're doing. You would then proceed to provide the subsequent 3 and 1 minute warnings in the same manner .Use your own judgement here as maybe your child only needs to be told once (you can count yourself amongst the lucky ones)
  • When the child’s allotted time is over his picture/name card should be removed and/or replaced and his control of the TV should be over immediately. It is quite likely that your child may object to this but it is critical that you are consistent with ending his TV time immediately according to the set time – DO NOT ALLOW an extra couple of minutes etc if the child protests for example. We are attempting to teach him that his access to the TV is dictated by a system and NOT controlled by his behaviour
  • After introducing a new rule or system you may find that a child’s behaviour in relation to this new rule or system (i.e. the new TV strategy) worsens considerably for a period of time but this is normal and to be expected .With time and consistency on your part the child will learn that his behaviour has no effect on his access to the TV which is dictated and controlled solely by the TV strategy. This should then greatly reduce tantrum behaviours and confrontations in relation to the TV
  • Whilst the child is protesting or having a tantrum do not engage him or talk to him. Aside from ensuring his safety and the safety of others you should not interact or attend to him whilst he is having a tantrum or engaging in any attention seeking behaviours. Remember to provide plenty of attention and social praise when the kids are behaving appropriately and/or following your instructions

Hopefully you can use this turn taking strategy can to help your kid's to better accept turn taking and sharing with others and make your own daily lives that little bit more peaceful in the process.

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Comments 20 comments

Bobri Dobri profile image

Bobri Dobri 5 years ago from Oklahoma

Interesting, but seems quite hard to follow all these steps with cards..

ubanichijioke profile image

ubanichijioke 5 years ago from Lagos

a great step in guiding kids. you have opened up ideas of great worth.thank you

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 5 years ago Author

Thank you ubanichijoke, i appreciate your comment.I've seen this used and used it very successfully myself with my own daughter when she was 2.Only needed to use it for a few weeks. She quickly came to understand and be much more accepting of when she could and couldn't watch tv etc. which was very helpful at the time.Also works well with turn taking when you have a couple of kids fighting over favourite toys :-)

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 5 years ago Author

Thank you for your comment Bobri. In practice it really is a simple strategy. The main strategy only relies on having a single picture card (or even just a small photo)to represent each child or individual involved.

The additional strategy for helping a child transitioning is not usually required but can be very useful for children with autism who are more rigid about change and respond very well to this type of forewarning and often have a very strong visual bias but obviously could be helpful for any chilcren who are more resistant to change or moving from favoured activities etc.Thanks again for reading.

HennieN profile image

HennieN 5 years ago from South Africa

Great hub. I also believe that your startegy is simple and straightforward.

This is pretty much in line with a similar hub I wrote: http://hennien.hubpages.com/hub/Sibling-Rivalry-Th...

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 5 years ago Author

Thank you for reading and your comment Hennien, it really is a usable and workable little strategy. I shall now go and have a look at your hub :-)

Bobri Dobri profile image

Bobri Dobri 5 years ago from Oklahoma

Rob, thanks for your answer, I will definitely try it when I have kids :) Bookmarked, up and interesting!

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 5 years ago Author

Your very welcome Bobri, thanks for the votes :-) & gl with the kids when they come :-)

CreativeArtist 5 years ago

Sounds like a good strategy for items that are to be shared, such as the TV. It's nice though to have some personal items that one doesn't have to share if they choose not to.

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 5 years ago Author

You're absolutely right Creative Artist.I agree with you that there's nothing wrong with kids having some personal items that are just their own but sharing is a part of life and something that doesn't always come naturally to young children so if there's something that fits that category then this can be a very useful strategy until kids learn to share more freely. In fact i would often advise first introducing this strategy with an item that the kids aren't too bothered about so they can learn to trust the strategy and how it works before having the stress of being expected to share something they're very possessive of or attatched to.Thanks for reading and your comments :-)

sid_candid profile image

sid_candid 5 years ago

Wow, what a wonderful Hub. Parenting is a skill which one can improve on with experience. This hub is full of vital tips on helping your kids be better human beings. voted up and useful.

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 5 years ago Author

Thanks for reading sid and your kind comments - much appreciated.Glad you liked it & thanks for the votes :-)

Tia Maria profile image

Tia Maria 5 years ago

An interesting strategy to teaching kids to share. It's hard to not give in a little to their protests sometimes but it's best to be consistent.

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 5 years ago Author

Thanks Tia Maria - It really works well and can be a great way for teaching younger children who haven't quite accepted that sometimes we have to share.You're right - consistency is absolutely key.Challenging behavior for instance doesn't have to work every time for it to persist so it can take some times, effort and considerable patience to break existing/established patterns of behavior.

roshall profile image

roshall 5 years ago from Ohio

hi Rob Winters, I have an 8 yr. old granddaughter who is not good at all with sharing so I will use this advice to sole the problem(hopefully).Great work. have a good day.

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 5 years ago Author

Thank you roshall. Strategies like this can work really well but it's vital you are consistent.There may be some intial resistance whenever you change the playing field 'so to speak' but with time and consistency this will all fade away and the child will accept that it's the system or the 'rules' that dictate how things work and this will greatly reduce conflict between you around these issues. Just try and create some success first and then you can build on it and hopefully she'll become more accepting of sharing all things with time - it ain't easy :-)It is ok to have one or two things that are just hers mind.

Thanks for reading and your kind comments and best of luck with your granddaughter.

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masmasika 4 years ago

Great ideas for kids in order to form their sharing values.

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 4 years ago Author

Hi masmasika!I'm glad you think so.Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment on my hub :-).

jezebellamina profile image

jezebellamina 4 years ago from Dallas, TX

Excellent strategies for instilling a very important characteristic in children! Voted up, useful, and shared.

I am one of 4 kids and my parents did a great job making sure everything was 'equal' but it still couldn't have been easy given the way we used to argue over everything. I know it was a nightmare when we all had to take turns playing Nintendo, lol!!

Rob Winters profile image

Rob Winters 4 years ago Author

Hi Jessica! Whilst almost universally difficult for young children sharing can be pretty difficult at any age, i think many people just get better at pretending it's not.I too am one of four and i'm pretty sure we drove our parents crazy as well.Thanks for linking up here on hubpages and thank you for your comments, votes and 'Sharing' - much appreciated :-)

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