Learning to Share and Cooperate Leads to Friendship

Learning to Share and Cooperate Leads to Friendship

Cooperation and sharing are basic life skills that enable us to make friends, work successfully in groups and get along well with others. But for our children to develop these skills, they need our help.

Babies are not born knowing how to cooperate or share. This ability is learned through interactions and experiences with parents and other significant caregivers. Around age 3, children begin to practice real cooperation when their play requires sharing and taking turns.

Teaching children this age taught me that learning how to cooperate and share is a process. It takes time and interactions with other children to learn that sharing can be fun. All I had to do was spend a few moments listening to the children as they played to understand where they were in the process. When I resisted the urge to interfere in their “negotiations,” I found out the most. We did a lot of role-playing as a class to work through issues so we could learn to “make” friends and “get along” with them.

Sharing is necessary if we want working and playing with others to be pleasurable. It builds a foundation for positive character development and is a common thread that runs through caring, cooperation, generosity and citizenship.

Here are a few ideas to try at home that help children develop their sharing and cooperation skills.

  • Model cooperative behavior. You are your child’s first teacher, and your behavior greatly influences the way your child acts and feels. Modeling cooperative behavior and helping your child see the benefit to lending a helping hand can turn a chore into an opportunity for fun. For example, you could say, “If we work together to clean up the kitchen after dinner, we’ll all be able to read the new book you borrowed from the library.”
  • Tackle a family project. Plan a family project that includes a task for each family member, such as starting a vegetable or flower garden, mapping out the family vacation or playing a game that requires teamwork. Help children see the fun in working together to accomplish a goal.
  • Team up in the kitchen. Cooking is a perfect time to learn about cooperation because children can actively help by gathering ingredients, measuring, mixing and then serving and eating. Read the story of “Stone Soup” and discuss how the travelers got everyone in the village to contribute to a wonderful pot of soup that everyone could enjoy.
  • Find cooperation in literature. While you’re reading to your child, point out examples of characters working together. Talk about how that cooperation leads to positive results. Ask your child to tell you how they would respond if someone asked them to cooperate on a project.
  • Make music together. The way children respond to music is magical. Listen to a short piece of music and discuss how the members of the chorus, band or orchestra worked together to make a beautiful sound. It’s easy to gather a simple set of rhythm instruments that children can use to keep time with the music or just sing along with a song on a CD. If you record their production, they will love hearing it over and over, knowing that they accomplished it together.

For more on inspiring cooperation in young children, read:

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