Friday, April 17, 2009


How Au Pairs and Nannies Can Help Teach Children to Share
By Cathy Malley
Cooperative Extension Educator, Child Development
University of Connecticut
Cooperative Extension


  • that it is not easy for young children to share.
  • that you should be a good example and show the children how to share.
  • that you should encourage and help children while they are learning to share.


This fact sheet will help you help children learn to share. Also, it will help you to understand young children and know what to expect from them.


Some toddlers share without being asked and without being taught to. However, learning to share is hard for most children. Young children think about themselves and what they want or need. Thinking about the needs of others is the beginning of learning to share. Two- and three-year-old children should not be expected to share. They are still working on meeting their own needs. By age four, many children will share some of their things. By age six or seven, children begin to understand how to cooperate with other children. Playing in groups gives children a chance to learn about sharing and taking turns.

You may decide that all toys and games belong to the group, not to any one child. As the care provider, you need to explain that to the children. Then show them what you mean. For example, when a child has finished using a group toy and another child picks it up, say out loud that it belongs to that child now. When he is done it will belong to the next child, etc. Explain to the children that this is called "sharing." If they want a toy back, they will have to wait for another turn. Explain this process to all the children. Then follow through with your promise.

Tell the children rules in a way that they understand. You could say, "First you go down the slide, then John, and then Sandy. This is clearer to children than saying, "You must all take turns."


  • Read books about sharing to the children. Your local children's librarian may be able to suggest some books and videos about sharing.
  • When playing "turn taking" games, be sure that each child has a chance to go first.
  • Support and praise children when they share. For example, say, "I liked the way you let John play with that toy. You must be proud of yourself."
  • Do not force young children (less than three years old) to share. This may cause the children to resent sharing.
  • Set a good example. Talk about sharing. Share with the children.
  • Sharing can be fun. Children need to try it to learn it.


Think about what you would do in the following situations. Discuss your solutions with another childcare provider. Did you come up with similar solutions?

1. Emily keeps taking the teddy bear from John. What can you do to help?

2. Terry always wants to be first. He screams when he can't be. What can you do to help Terry?

3. Matt will not let go of a toy. What can you do?


  • Every day, do something in which you share or take turns with the children.
  • Talk about sharing. Talk about how good it feels when others share with us.


Growing With Children circular HE 198 *Learning to Share*, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.

*Positive Parenting Practices, Teaching Children to Share*, letter #9. West Virginia University Cooperative Extension, Morgantown, WV 26506.

*Being Alone, Being Together* by Terry Berger, Raintree Edition, Milwaukee. Distributed by Children's Press, Chicago, IL.

*Frederick* by Leo Lionni, Pantheon, New York, NY 10022 (1967).

*Uncle Elephant* by Arnold Lobel, Harper and Row, New York, NY (1981).

*What Mary Jo Shared* by Janice May Udry, A. Whitman, Niles, IL 60648 (1966).

*Hiding House* by Judith Vigna, A. Whitman, Niles, IL 60648 (1979).

National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension Service Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only (not for profit beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Malley, C.. (1991). *Learning to share*. (Family Day Care Facts series). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts. Any additions or changes to these materials must be pre-approved by the author .

Gretchen May
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
206 Skinner Hall
Amherst, MA 01003
VOICE: 413-577-0332
FAX: 413-545-1002

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