Taking turns is a skill that develops over time. Young children can find sharing a challenge. Using the right parenting style, whānau can help children take turns.

It starts early

Whether we realise it or not, we’ve been gradually working on taking turns since babyhood. This Parenting Resource is full of simple ideas that help young children learn about taking turns.

Remember the early days of face to face talking with pēpi and copying the sounds they made? And when they were sitting up and we played by rolling the ball back and forwards with them?

A developing skill

A secure attachment is the foundation for getting on with others.

Sometimes we have high expectations for sharing when in fact pēpi is at the stage of just wanting to play alongside others, rather than engaging fully with them.

Like other skills, being able to share and take turns develops over time. What helps this skill to develop is when whānau model the behaviour and talk with the child, gently but clearly. Simple things like saying out loud to the child, ‘Here’s the bike. Your turn now’, or ‘My turn to kick a goal’.

Trusting others

By the time they’re 3, most children are beginning to understand about taking turns and sharing and what the idea of ‘fair’ means.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • What are your tactics for helping to make things fair for your kids?
  • How is that working out?

Challenges with sharing

Being happy sharing or taking turns can be much harder for some children and take more time. It’s not an easy skill to develop for some, and it may be that their experiences affect their progress.

Role models may have been inconsistent or untrustworthy. Their confidence in others may have been shaken through unhappy experiences, and they may have had bad luck sharing with others.

Without sufficient whānau supervision, sometimes older siblings can take advantage of the younger ones. For example, sneaking things off them while no one is watching. So, it’s with good reason that the tēina may be unsure that others will be fair and share with them.

Sometimes tamariki will drop what they’re playing with if they see another child pick up a different toy, and they’ll try and grab it off them. They may have been playing with it before and feel like it’s ‘mine’!

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • What have you noticed about your tamaiti when they’re with other kids?
  • How have other adults responded when kids are fighting over toys or activities?

Parenting styles

Let’s have a look at some ideas in Whakatipu booklet Te Māhuri 1, pages 20–21. In this cartoon, Maka and Heru are finding it hard to share the bike. On the next page, we’re reminded of the three parenting styles – rock, paper and tree – and how each might be used in this situation.

Maybe we could refresh our understanding of the ‘rākau’ or ‘tree’ style that we find in the Takai booklet Thinking about parenting.

Thinking about parenting

The rākau parent talks clearly and politely: ‘Maka, it’s Heru’s turn now, please.’ The next sentence then indicates a simple action that will help Maka know that she will get the bike back and it will be her turn in 5 minutes. Give a definite time.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • What other ideas could you use to help define the sharing time?

There are lots of opportunities to help children learn about sharing and waiting their turn. These other resources below suggest a number of tips and strategies too.

Helpful resources for whānau