Cooperation and sharing are skills your child will build on throughout their life. Here at Crème de la Crème, we know that the foundation for sharing starts at a young age. Here are some tips for encouraging your child to share and cooperate while they play and learn.

Encourage the Idea of Taking Turns

A toddler playing with trucks on the floor.

Image via Flickr by Philippe Put

Even very young children can start developing skills and interactions that will allow them to share and cooperate as they grow. Infants between the ages of 6 and 9 months can engage in back-and-forth interactions and learn to imitate other This stage of development offers ample opportunity to encourage taking turns through play.

A few ways you can integrate taking turns into daily playtime activities include:

  • Place a toy in your baby’s toy box, then give them time to perform the same action with the next toy.
  • Take turns putting toys into a box or bin and then dumping them out.
  • As your baby gets older, you can take turns putting shapes into shape-sorter toys or putting puzzle pieces into a puzzle.
  • Make cleanup time a game of taking turns by putting toys or books back on the shelf or in their storage container.

By combining play and cooperation, your baby learns to feel the pleasure of accomplishing tasks as a team.

Teach Problem-Solving Skills

You can encourage children around 2 or 3 years of age to come up with solutions. At the same time that they work out everyday problems they’re facing, you’ll also demonstrate the benefits of cooperation.

Some steps to teaching your child problem-solving skills include:

  1. State the problem with clear language. Try something like, “You want to use your paint on the carpet, but mommy/daddy is saying no.”
  2. Follow up with a question: “What else can you paint on?”
  3. Offer a solution, or better, offer two acceptable solutions: “We can paint on our paper, or we can use this box.”
  4. Set a limit if your child is still resisting the request. You can say something like, “I will put away the paints until we can agree on a good place to paint.”
  5. Then, redirect your child’s attention: “You can play with your blocks on the carpet instead.”

Most young children need guidance to find acceptable ways to express their desires. By following these steps, you’re giving them some tools to find ways to channel their wishes into appropriate activities.

Offer Choices While Still Maintaining Rules

A rule, such as putting on pajamas when it’s time for bed, needs to be enforced, but you can do so in a way that shows respect. For example, give your child a choice that still sticks to the rules in your home: “We need to put on our PJs at bedtime. Do you want to put on your PJs before we read a book or after?”

Your child might frequently pick putting on their PJs after storytime, but they’re still less likely to protest the rule while adhering to it. By offering a choice, you show your child respect. Respect, in turn, develops a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

Take Time to Explain Reasoning for Requests and Limits

At 3 years old, most children can understand and use language well enough to work with simple explanations. You can use age-appropriate language to explain how rules benefit everyone in your family.

Say something like, “You can help me put away our laundry so I finish up faster. Then we can play faster!” or, “We all help each other clean up so we don’t lose our toys and we can find them when we want to play.”

In terms of sharing, you can phrase your request to show why taking turns is so important: “You feel happy when you use your red crayon. You can let your brother use your red crayon so he feels happy, too.”

That way, your child starts to learn why cooperative tasks are helpful and beneficial for everyone.

Offer Suggestions Instead of Commands

Suggestions often inspire cooperation. On the other hand, commands can inspire a child’s stubborn side.

For example, if you’re going outside in chilly weather, saying, “Put your coat on!” can make a child act out with resistance. Instead, phrase your request as a suggestion: “It’s snowing, so you need to put on your warm coat. Do you want to do it all by yourself, or do you want me to help you?”

Start Doing Chores Together From an Early Age

Engage your child with daily chores so that they learn how cooperation benefits them and, by extension, the entire family. You can do activities together, like setting the table or sweeping the floors. 

You can point out the great aspects of cooperating as you go along, too. Comment on how fast you set the table together and how you have time to play with a favorite puzzle before eating dinner. Compliment the great job they did while expressing how much fun you had doing the work as a team.

Give Praise for Cooperative Effort

Give specific praise for cooperative efforts. Use concrete language to demonstrate how their work was important. Getting specific feedback will help your child recognize their skills while learning to value their contribution to teamwork.

You can ask your child for help sorting laundry, then say: “You did a great job picking out all the shirts and putting them in a pile. Now we can have more time to play together because you helped me finish the laundry faster!”

Likewise, use descriptive praise to draw attention to the great job your child did sharing a toy with a friend or sibling. Saying something like, “Did you see how big Sarah was smiling when you gave her the block? She really liked that!” will show concretely what your child did to elicit praise.

Learning to share and cooperate takes place beyond the home, too. By enrolling your child in a daycare that fosters social and educational success, you’ll give them yet another space to learn skills for sharing and cooperating that they’ll use as they grow. Contact us to get started today.